Ministering to those in need Editorial
Guyana Chronicle
May 10, 2002

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RELIGION has long played an integral and influential role in the life of man - the degree of influence varying in different societies and cultures.

The similarities among religions, especially in their objectives and interpretations of the world are striking; yet many conflicts and wars have erupted in the past and are constantly taking place in different areas of the globe, all in the name of religion.

Currently, hundreds of lives are being lost in violent conflicts in many countries, resulting in fear, tensions and instability.

India and Pakistan have long been at odds over Kashmir which has triggered many other religious conflicts; in the Philippines and Indonesia growing tensions are developing between Muslims and Hindus and violent clashes are imminent. And not so long ago there was a bloody conflict involving Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland - of course, that has political overtones as well.

History is replete with wars that have been fought in the name of religion.

It is indeed strange that all religious philosophies are based on the principles of peace, non-violence, love and brotherhood of man, yet so many lives and property have been destroyed and are still being destroyed because of religious conflicts.

Here in Guyana where the majority of people belong to the major religions - Islam, Christianity and Hinduism - the situation is vastly different and there is respect and tolerance for each other's religious beliefs and practices. This is indeed a plus for the society and harbours well for the future of this country.

However, a weakness of religious organisations in Guyana is that many tend to see themselves as being apart and separate from the social problems in the country, rather than seeing themselves as an integral part of society and working in collaboration with others to overcome social problems.

While some do commendable work in these areas, others in some communities do not tend to the sick and elderly who might be bed-ridden and may not have close relatives to keep their company and render assistance.

Religious organisations should, for example, be involved in providing help to the many children who because of poverty cannot afford schoolbooks, uniforms or shoes, or who suffer from malnutrition. Many doctors belong to the various religions and the religious leaders can harness their services to provide medical assistance to the poor and underprivileged around the country.

In other words, religious groups should not be isolated from the problems of society, but should become part of the search for solutions and remedial action to overcome both spiritual and physical human suffering,

All religions accept that "Service to humanity, is service to God" and every effort should be made to put this principle into practice.

Prophets have advocated and practised this principle and if they are held to be spiritual leaders, churches should follow in their footsteps.

Perhaps, a start to this ideal could be forming a national charitable body comprising representatives from the various religions who can then map out a common strategy to provide help to the poor, needy and underprivileged.

In this way resources can be pooled for the common good of all needy Guyanese, regardless of religion, ethnicity or class.