Guyana and religious mandates

The Ministry of Education recently responded to the concerns expressed by Swami Aksharananda regarding the matter of Christian-themed prayers recited at an organised event hosted by the Ministry of Education. In their response, the Ministry assured the Swami that no religion was favoured by the use of a universal prayer, reaffirming the belief that “no one religion, ethnicity, gender etc. is or should be made to be seen as dominant over the other.

Ferlin F. Pedro reacts against the situation in Guyana and about concerns expressed by Swami Aksharananda:

Public prayers, whether in schools or at any other public venue, is an example of a colonial relic that continues to impact the secular being of Guyanese society.

He writes

In his letter, the Swami critiqued the adoption of Christian-themed prayers citing its colonial legacy and our modern difficulty of ensuring a secular state given the influence of Christian values in public institutions.

For him

Public prayers, whether in schools or at any other public venue, is an example of a colonial relic that continues to impact the secular being of Guyanese society. During the tenure of the former administration through its Ministerial official, Dr. Rupert Roopnarine promised that the Ministry of Education would remove any mandate or motive that would have schools compel students to recite religious prayers during school assemblies. According to him,

“We are a multi-religious country and we have to realize that we have multi-religious children…”

However, Dr. Roopnarine went further to hint at an alternative, saying

“whatever prayer is used in schools should not exclude any of the religions.”

Concerning prayers one may ask what a universal prayer or an inter-denominational prayer may entail. These terms are ambiguous regarding what they can practically encompass.

Guyana consists of three major religions (majority faiths that people subscribe to) and within these major faiths, there are denominations or sects with orthodox and dissenting views. Ferlin F. Pedro finds in Guyana Christianity consisting of Anglicanism, Catholicism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christadelphians, and so on. He further notices:

Hinduism consists of Shaivism, Vaishnavism and Shaktism. Islam consists of Sunni (the majority denomination), Shia, and Sufism. There are faiths which are non-theistic, such as Buddhism.

He further writes:

There are also the non-religious ‒ people who do not subscribe to a religion. By now you can tell that trying to utilize an “inter-denominational” or “universal” prayer poses a serious challenge, one that questions whether the government should have an obligation to address theological compatibility. Even if the government is guided by religious and non-religious scholars, it remains concerning that the government would want to take up a position of mandating what prayer(s) someone can or should say. While it is less worrying that religious organizations are insisting their versions of a prayer for all, it is more disconcerting that a government wants to be in a position of issuing memorandums prescribing what prayer people should use.

He ends his letter with saying:

Public schools should be free from religious mandates. Perhaps more importantly, the Government should not act as an institution of religion but of the people, which is a government that gets democratically, not theocratically, elected.

Please continue reading:

Government and public schools should be free from religious mandates by Stabroek News

Published by Marcus Ampe

Retired dancer, choreographer, choreologist Founder of the Dance impresario office and archive: Danscontact-Dansarchief plus the Association for Bible scholars, the Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" and "From Guestwriters" and creator of the site "Messiah for all". - Gepensioneerd danser, choreograaf, choreoloog. Stichter van Danscontact-Dansarchief plus van de Vereniging voor Bijbelvorsers, de Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" en "From Guestwriters" en maker van de site "Messiah for all".

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