Head of State David Granger on Wednesday described the religious diversity which Guyana enjoys as a “model of interfaith Harmony”.
President Granger was delivering the keynote address at the launch of World Interfaith Harmony Week at the Umana Yana – a United Nations event. He said that at a time when hostile relationships and religious conflicts continue to envelop in other parts of the world, Guyana has policies that promote peaceful coexistence by fostering interfaith harmony.
He explained that interfaith harmony is advanced through dialogue which in turn promotes understanding of each other’s culture and beliefs, and which, in turn, generates cooperation which leads to development and facilitates the dismantling of the barriers of domination and distrust.
United Nations (UN) Resident Coordinator, Mikiko Tanaka, who spoke on behalf of all UN organisations in Guyana, said that anti-Muslim hate crimes, xenophobia, racism, anti-semitism and other forms of bigotry are on the rise in the world today and as such, the stability, which comes with interfaith harmony, is becoming increasingly important for countries.
“We all have to resist cynical efforts that try to divide communities and portray neighbours as the ‘other’. People everywhere need to feel that their cultural identities are valued and at the same time to have a strong sense of belonging to their community as a whole. As societies become more multi-ethnic and multi-religious, cultural and economic investments and cohesion are required so that diversity is rightly seen as richness not a threat,” she said.
The activities to commemorate World Interfaith Harmony Week are being spearheaded by the Inter-Religious Organisation of Guyana (IRO) under the theme, “Fostering Social Cohesion in Guyana”. World Interfaith Harmony Week was first proposed at the UN General Assembly on September 23, 2010, by His Majesty, King Abdullah II of Jordan. It was unanimously adopted in October of that same year. It started as an initiative to bring together leaders of the Christian and Muslim faiths in dialogue, but was later expanded to include all faiths.
Meanwhile, Social Cohesion Minister Dr George Norton told the gathering that patience, tolerance, peace, love, mutual respect and understanding are some of the values inherent in all religions, which should bind Guyanese together.
Additionally, Bishop Juan Edghill representing the Leader of the Opposition and the People’s Progressive Party/Civic said that if Guyana is going to safeguard inter-religious harmony, people need to propagate their respective faiths without demonising the faiths of others. He also spoke about the role of education in understanding and appreciating the rights, cultures and beliefs of others.
“I believe that there should be greater attention as it relates to our education system; you don’t have to accept it, you don’t have to practice it but if you understand it, you can make space for it to happen without using whatever influence you have to ridicule, stop or condemn,” Bishop Edghill said.