BY MARK GREAVES
!Arms were asked to simulate Muslim prayer in a Catholic school, it has emerged.
In an effort to engage with other faiths, children were given prayer mats and compasses to locate the direction of Mecca. They were then asked to kneel and bow their heads in an imitation of Muslim prayer.
One member of the class at St Richard Gwyn Roman Catholic High School in Barry, South Wales, apparently worried that he had betrayed his faith, went immediately to Confession.
According to RE teacher Nicola Price, the role-play was designed to make them appreciate what Islamic prayer feels like.
But a mother of one of the
pupils told the Sun: "We chose to send our children to a Catholic school. We don't expect them to come home saying they have been praying to Allah. I'm sure Muslims would be quite offended if it was the other way round."
But Mrs Price insists the pupils, aged 13 and 14, were not actually asked to pray.
"We start every RE lesson with a prayer, and the way the role-play was carried out was very different to the way we pray usually," she said.
There has been a "revolution" in teaching methods, according to headteacher Mike Clinch, and so "it is not surprising to find a classroom being turned into a synagogue for a lesson, or to find pupils role-playing the Anointing of the Sick as they study." Other elements of the lesson on Islam include discussing how to build a mosque, thinking about the issue of fasting and watching a video on the hadjj (the pilgrimage to Mecca).
The lesson formed part of an RE course approved by the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, which aims to instill a respect for other religions. One major world religion is taught each year.
"We just want to teach an awareness and understanding of different faiths so that we could avoid bigotry," said Mr Clinch. Mrs Price argued that the course was consistent with the teachings of the Second Vatican Council. "We teach them enough to grasp what's going on in the world," she explained.