Guyana abhors religious stigmatisation

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Written by GINA
Wednesday, 01 February 2012 22:18

– President assures at Interfaith Week
– Religious channel to be prioritised

THE Guyana Government, for the second year in succession, has responded with loyalty to the United Nations global call for countries to host a suite of activities in early February to mark the occasion of World Interfaith Harmony Week.

President Donald Ramotar has an emblem pinned on his shirt on arrival at the National Culture Centre yesterday.

Yesterday, members of the different religious faiths converged on the National Cultural Centre to launch Guyana’s programme of activities.

The launch, which was attended by President Donald Ramotar, featured prayers and reflections from the Hindu, Rastafarian, Christian, Muslim and Baha’i faiths, singing of the national song, “O Beautiful Guyana” and remarks on the occasion.

Guyana holds the reputation as a country highly tolerant of religious diversity, and according to President Ramotar, is setting the precedent for other countries where devotion to faith comes at the cost of persecution.

The Head of State took the firm stand that Guyana rejects the notion that “any person or any people can be stigmatised or prosecuted because of religion,” and that the government will repudiate any government, organisation or person to subject people to policies that restrict the pursuit of their faith.
Similar sentiments were expressed by United Nations Representative, Dr Beverly Barnett, who ranked Guyana’s reputation a prime example and a perfect opportunity for citizens to work together.
Pandit Reepu Daman Persaud addresses the audience at the National Cultural Centre.

World Interfaith Harmony Week follows a clarion call by King Abdullah II of Jordan, on September 23, 2010, for the global community to engage in constructive dialogue aimed at promoting virtues such as respect for all human beings, irrespective of religion, race and the prevention of vices, among them intolerance and racism.

President Ramotar, in his keynote address, reiterated the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) administration’s policy on religion.
“Our people have absolute freedom to observe and celebrate their faith. That freedom is not only guaranteed by our Constitution, but there is a genuine respect for religious freedom on the part of the government,” President Ramotar said.

Since 2005, the idea of an Inter-religious Television (IRTV) channel dedicated to the broadcasting of religious programmes on a 24 hour basis was conceptualised under the auspices of former President Bharrat Jagdeo.

Members of the Inter-Religious Organisation (IRO) met on several occasions during last year to discuss the resources necessary for the setting up of the channel, including funding and equitable distribution of air time amongst the various bodies. Yesterday, President Ramotar assured that the initiative is still a priority of the government.
, “I will pursue the promise of my predecessor, former President Bharrat Jagdeo, that the inter-faith television station will be up and running as soon as possible and, that the regular engagement of faith communities and leaders will continue,” President Ramotar said.
On the roster of activities for interfaith week that will be held during the period February 1 to 7, are an inter-faith symposium, exhibition and a harmony walk that will culminate with a cultural programme.
Sharing his reflection on harmony from the Hindu perspective was Pandit Reepu Daman Persaud, who recited and interpreted excerpts from the Hindu scriptures with evidence that God is universal.

He explained that religion is all about service to people, and in so doing, a service to God.
Brother Bacchus of the Muslim Youth League called for an end to the media propagation of religious hate at the political and community level.

His closing words were, “No one is a believer until he/she desires for others the same as he/she desires for self.”

Dr Vindyha Persaud of the Guyana Hindu Dharmic Sabha quoted famous words of Mahatma Gandhi, “All religions of the world, while they differ in other respects, unitedly proclaim that nothing lives in this world but truth.”