Calls for peace, atonement at interfaith service

by Gwen Evelyn
Guyana Chronicle
January 11, 1998

CALLS and pleas took the form of prayers, songs and addresses yesterday at the National Park in Georgetown at a day of atonement, reconciliation, and national healing.

Present were representatives from the Alliance For Guyana (AFG), The United Force (TUF), the Guyana Democratic Party (GDP), the Good and Green Guyana (GGG) and the People's Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/Civic). Various religious organisations - Christians, Hindus, Muslims and Bahai's - were also there and each group prayed for Guyana's return to normalcy.

Several Government Ministers, some accompanied by their families, also attended. And everyone sat together, in one stand. Nobody occupied the VIP stand usually used by special guests.

The calls were made from a blue-tented podium set up under the scorching 2 p.m. sun on the tarmac of the National Park.

Passages of scriptures were read and prayers offered by representatives of the Hindu, Muslim, and Christian religions, and the Baha'is.

Anglican Bishop Randolph George, in a message read by his wife Sheila on his behalf, said that Guyana allowed animosity to take root in the past.

And once again, Guyana is pushed to the brink of self- destruction and chaos. He said that there are those who see this as the only way to resolve their difficulties. As a nation, we are divided and torn and this is not the way to live, the Bishop said in his message.

"Do you really want to be reconciled?" he asked.

Bishop George went on to note that Jesus Christ gave a command which said, simply, "I want you to love one another".

Shortly after this, the gathering was told to stand, hold hands and meditate. Throughout the stand, men, women and children joined hands as they were led into prayers for atonement and peace, and for wisdom to exist among political leaders.

Bearing the AFG's message was Mr Bert Carter who said his party was glad to join the call for peace.

However, Carter noted that if there is peace but no justice, then the peace is false.

The real challenge, Carter said, is to seek justice peacefully. But in the fight for justice, the voices of all must be heard.

Carter went on to recommend that a strong infusion of selflessness is needed in politics.

The GDP's Mr Hafeez Rahaman said his party was also pleased with the event as the nation "circles to find peace".

Rahaman said the GDP has a firm belief in and submission to God. He said the reconciliation and healing necessary for spiritual uplift can only come from God.

"Pray for atonement," he urged, noting "that we should rid ourselves of corruption and bigotry and try to forgive."

Mr Euclin Gomes from the GGG said he hoped yesterday's encounter was the beginning of a process to return Guyana to normal life.

While the GGG has concerns about the procedures and administrative shortcomings during the December 15 elections, the party feels that those issues can be resolved. He urged the Government and parties to treat the issues of constitutional reform and spiritual revival as inseparable components.

"May God guide us today," Gomes concluded.

"We need atonement, we need reconciliation," TUF leader, Mr Manzoor Nadir said in his address. He pointed out that the condition of the country lies on the shoulders of those who refuse to honour the Creator.

Nadir said political leaders stand guilty of the state of the nation.

"We are responsible. We, as leaders, should have led them with dignity," Nadir said.

Head of the Private Sector Commission, Mr Yesu Persaud had some other fears that people are no longer coming into the country.

"It's a risky place," he said.

Persaud said if the situation continues investment will "dry up" for a country that already needs help.

Appealing for maturity, he said that the country should be looked at as a whole and not with self-interest. He recommended that Guyana should sink its differences for the good of the next generation.

GGG leader, Mr Hamilton Green is certain that Guyanese prefer to live in peace and calm.

Green said that over the years, humans have failed to find effective ways of living happily among one another.

"Our ancestors and leaders seemed able to fix their differences only through conflict with loss of lives."

"It is about time that our higher instincts are employed," Green said.

He hoped the higher functionaries were prepared to take positive action for atonement.

"With prayers and will, the people of Guyana will win," Green said.

Speaking on behalf of the PPP/Civic was Education Minister, Dr Dale Bisnauth who noted that the country was in troubled times.

"This crisis has the potential to set Guyana back by several decades," Bisnauth observed.

"And our challenge as a nation is whether we can rise above what plagues us."

"Can we achieve healing from the hurts of the past? Is reconciliation possible?" he asked.

Bisnauth said the PPP/Civic is confident that atonement and reconciliation are possible.

"We pledge to do our utmost in nation building," he said.

"May our nation have peace at this time and God bless Guyana," he implored.

Occasionally, the gathering cheered and as the speakers made their appeals, the word "amen" rose from the people here and there.

Songs such as "Oh Beautiful Guyana" and "My Native Land" were played by the Police Force Band.

And there was a rendition of the stirring and applicable song made popular by the late Indian singer, Mohamed Rafi, titled "The World Is One".

One verse of the song says "although we hail from different lands...we share one earth, sky and sun. Remember friend, the world is one."