The authorities owe the public an answer in the `Book of Hope' matter
Stabroek News
September 29, 2001

Dear Editor,

Last week I sent a letter to both the Chronicle and Stabroek News concerning the distribution of the 'Book of Hope' in schools in Berbice and Linden. The Book of Hope is a simplified version of the gospels, that makes it easier for children to understand. The Assemblies of God has taken upon itself to distribute this version of the gospel wholesale in our public schools.

The editor's note in last Sunday Stabroek (23.9.01) said that the authorities in Region 6 were investigating this matter. The authorities owe the public an answer.

But more importantly I would like to urge all tolerant Guyanese to keep the spotlight on this matter. The Assemblies of God in conjunction with an American-based Christian organization, got the green light to flood our public schools with the gospel. What is disturbing is that the said American-based Christian organization would not be allowed to distribute the Christian gospels in public schools in America since there is a clearly defined separation of church and state in the US. But, this organization came in sneakily and in a back-door manner, went ahead and distributed this book.

Hindus and Muslims and those Christians who believe in respect for all religions, tolerance for the differences in religious beliefs and expression and the way people worship the Divine, must put pressure on the relevant authorities to address this issue. We must not allow this to be swept under the rug. The authorities must answer our concerns. We must be told why and how and how to prevent this in the future. Either these books must be recalled or there must also be wholesale distribution of the Hindu scriptures - the Ramayana, the Bhagavad-Gita or the Upanishads, and the Koran. We must not sit idly by and allow our children to be held captive to this latest onslaught on our freedom of religion.

Many of us remember and have read of the days when public schools, while being funded by the government from taxpayer dollars, were under the sole control of the church. Because of the Christian slant in the education offered in those schools, many Indians kept their children away from public school education. In those days, only Christians were allowed to become schoolteachers. No matter how qualified a Hindu or a Muslim was, the only way they could teach in these public schools, was to convert to Christianity with the result that many of them did. In my interviews with older Guyanese, I have had the opportunity to speak to some of these people. Many of them, older and wiser and more exposed to differing points of views about the Divine, are now trying to understand the Hindu scriptures and to see how uniquely the Hindu conception of the Parmatma is. All of this is only to show the kind of effects, social, political, and cultural that the wholesale Christianization of our children can have. Many Hindus and Muslims who have converted to Christianity lose not only their religion, but the concurrent ingrained culture associated with Hinduism and Islam - the mode of dress, the relationships among members of one's family, the inherent self-confidence in one's identity and contribution to the world. All of this is erased and replaced with an Anglicization that reduces, out of ignorance, the contribution of our unique culture to the world. The convert is then forced to undo all of himself/herself and put on the appearance of a bastardized Anglicization. We must resist this. We must demand that our schools remain places of learning devoid of religious rhetoric and intolerance. We must demand it now before something more blatant is done.

Yours faithfully,

Rohan Sooklall