I am concerned about fundamental human rights
Stabroek News
October 19, 2001

Dear Editor,

Anyone reading only the letters column of the Guyana Chronicle would believe that Emile Mervin is carrying on a conversation with a phantom in his brain named Justin DeFreitas. The Chronicle seems professionally content to publish mostly Mervin's opinions in a debate which is presented in a more balanced form in the Stabroek News.

It doesn't matter much though; clearly Stabroek News readership is discerning and is aware of Mervin's anti-PNC rhetoric which also features prominently in the Chronicle. I can assure those in charge of the Chronicle that the exchanges between Mervin and I would have a negligible impact on his credibility as a political commentator.

Mervin's letters aptly demonstrate how difficult it is to get through to someone whose mind is already closed with preconceptions. It is indeed a very frustrating exercise.

He stressed again in the Chronicle of October 17th that I am "outraged" with Christianity. Is this generalized assumption accurate? Did Mervin skip the part of my letter (sent to both dailies but published only in the Stabroek News) in which I lauded Fr. Chadwick's pronouncements on his Christian faith? Did I not say that it represents "a very enlightened and modern view...of evolved rationality"?

Apparently, it suits Mervin better to write to the Chronicle claiming that I am "outraged" with Christianity in general when in actuality I said I am outraged by a particular act perpetrated by some very specific people. Again, I will rely on the intelligence of your readership to deconstruct this poor attempt at propaganda.

Mervin's Chronicle letter kept harping back to my comments about "burning tyres and ripping up streets." I thought I had made it clear that these acts can stem from religious intolerance, a mindset which I have actively discouraged in my letters (SN Monday Oct 15th.) Was my explanation too difficult to understand?

Mervin is right on one account though. I do have a problem. And that problem has to do with the expansion of irrationality through the un-evolved principle of attempting to impose your beliefs on others.

My problem has to do with the violation of basic freedom. I do not care for "what truly constitutes Christian practices worldwide" if those practices result in physical or mental abuse of others. I am concerned about fundamental human rights and the manner in which those rights are protected under the law.

I do not care which invisible being instructs you to perform which act; if you harm another human, if you break the law, you must be punished.

This holds for religious fundamentalists of all kinds. If you get some crazy idea that an invisible being would like you to fly an aeroplane into a skyscraper and murder 6000 innocent people then you must be punished.

If you hear voices in your head telling you to perform certain acts and you carry these out at the expense of other people's well-being then you must be punished, and punished here on earth not after you die in some imaginary lake of fire. Anything less than this and civilization suffers and regresses.

I regret that Mervin sees no sense in my letters and so wishes to end our exchange. He also saw no sense in Rohan Sooklall's letters when he declined to continue a debate in which Sooklall displayed spectacular commonsense. I think Mervin's American friends would call this a "cop-out."

Yours faithfully,

Justin DeFreitas