“Enemies” at Official Commemorations

Exercise description

The day before, ask individuals from the group to take on roles for this exercise so that they can prepare. Their task will be to participate in displaying a commemoration for fallen fighters of, for instance, the Army of BiH, killed in battle. The roles are:

  1. Host from the veterans’ association organising the event who addresses the gathering
  2. “Enemy” visitors – veterans from enemy armies
  3. “Peace workers” visitors – organising the visit of the “enemies” to the commemoration
  4. Families of victims
  5. Imam (or other religious figure, depending on the context)
  6. Local government representatives
  7. Local veterans’ association
  8. Other citizens

Set the stage and analyse the set up through these four steps:

Step 1. All the participants in the role play introduce themselves (their roles).

Step 2. Everyone explains why they have come to the gathering.

Step 3. Ask the participants in the role play: How do you feel now? What do you want to say to whom? – They should speak directly to each other. After the interaction, pause the role play and ask those involved: How do you feel? What are you thinking about? What changed during communication and interaction?

Step4. The gathering is over… What thoughts and feelings are you going away with?

Step 5. Coming out of the roles: all the participants on stage say their real name and get a round of applause.


Discussion in the plenary

Suggested questions for evaluating the exercise:

  • How important are visits by the “enemy” to sites of atrocities and commemorations?
  • What message do they send?
  • What conflicts arise?
  • What are the risks?
  • Why aren’t there more such actions?


Type of exercise:


90-180 min


If more people in the group have not had an opportunity to attend a commemoration for those killed in the war, it could be useful to show some photographs from such events and talk about what they look like and what is characteristic about them.

During Step 3, it is important to guide the chain of reactions, and this should be done by the trainer who is in a position to say who should be next to say how they feel. The role play does not progress independently like a sketch, but in response to questions from the trainer. When people get into a role, they can find it difficult to say how they feel in the role, because they get confused by their own real feelings (that should be expressed) and what they think their role feels like in real life. That is why it is important to guide patiently and clarify the purpose of the questions if needed.

Atthe end, make sure to give enough room to those who performed the roles to express how they felt. Do not skip over this part of emotional evaluation, because there may be great need for it.