[GUS Editor's Note: This
was a letter sent to Stabroek News after reading one of its editorial.
Stabroek News once again sent this letter to the Ministry of Education
but there was no response. This has been, I believe, the third
time such a letter was sent.]
I read your editorial titled "secular state"
(SN 11/11) and enjoyed it. The sentence I have a problem with,
however, is this: "Guyana is a secular state in which Christians,
Hindus, Muslims and adherents of other religions worship freely
without interference of any kind."
I know that we have the freedom to practise our religions. But
I also know that there is an interference. I know that your paper
is aware of our public or state-owned education system and that
for decades the "Lord's Prayer," which is a Christian
hymn, has been the mandatory prayer in all these institutions.
Therefore, I am left to believe that your paper is ignoring an
old and obvious contradiction to the idea of us being a secular
state, simply because to challenge the "obvious" would
be to ignite a debate that would only conclude in parliament.
Or, the paper thinks this is not a serious enough violation to
warrant a question mark over our supposed secularity?
It is interesting, this editorial, because it attempts to discuss
national politics and an organized religion in the recent US election,
whereas, the same concern ought to be shown to our public school
system and this very organized religion. And by this, I mean,
where are the editorials on the use of "government"
schools in Guyana (e.g., Grove Primary School) for religious business?
That the Ministry of Education allows this to occur, and refuses
to explain granting such permissions when questioned in the press,
is testimony of the false democracy we have inherited. While we
do haveÂ numerous freedoms, weÂ do not haveÂ
an absolute case of separation of church and state.
The evangelicalism that the Bush administration is associated
with is already in Guyana. It is in the TV, on pre-recorded sermons
on CDs and cassettes, boat-libraries (e.g., the boat Logos that
visited us recently), and of course, free gifts from Christian
organizations in the US. Money is the real power behind evangelicalism,
and the concern your editorial raises, as others in America, is
testimony of the dangerous swing Christianity is assuming. Behind
closed doors the wars in the Middle East are more than just a
clash of civilizations. It is a change of civilizations; we not
only defeat them; we convert them.
War, Bernard Shaw has made us to understand, makes for good business.
The evangelicals are waiting for the gun barrels in Iraq to grow
cold to begin work. The two US women arrested by the TalibansÂ
were not only "aid workers," but evangelical missionaries
(thus their arrest). On the "Logos" (an overseas boat)
, a number of books were given out "free." What people
don't know is that many of these books could not be sold, because
Logos got them for "free" (for promotion) from publishers
(e.g., McGraw Hill). Getting a "free" book from a boat
that is managed by a faith-based team, may be the thing that makes
a poor non-Christian make a trip to a crusadeâ€¦Whereas
we are given books etc. to alter our religious views, Bush gave
tax dollars to Christian groups to change their political views.
Writers in Guyana should write about the consequences of these
things. What, for example, are the musical and cultural forms
in Guyana at risk of being severely reduced or eliminated because
of evangelicalism? Perhaps this editorial is a start.
Editor's note (Stabroek News):
Regulation 68 of the education code regulations provides as follows:
"It shall not be required that a pupil shall attend or abstain
from attending any Sunday school or any place of religious worship
or that he shall, or shall not, attend any religious observance
whatever." We understand that the Lord's prayer is still
said in some schools but that non-Christians do not have to participate.
Nevertheless, we are sending a copy of this letter to the Minister
of Education for any comments he may wish to make on this and
the use of government schools for religious business