The Conversion Agenda

"Freedom to convert" is counterproductive as a generalized doctrine. It fails to come to terms with the complex interrelationships between self and society that make the concept of individual choice meaningful. Hence, religious conversion undermines, and in extremes would dissolve, that individual autonomy and human freedom.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Guyana Hindu children forced to recite Christian prayers

Rakesh Rampertab
GuyanaUnderSiege.com GUS

[GUS Editor's Note: This was a letter sent to Stabroek News after reading one of its editorials. 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 practice 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 have numerous freedoms, we do not have 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 Talibans 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 crusade. 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.

Yours faithfully,
Rakesh Rampertab

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

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