Despite the inclement weather, scores of Guyanese gathered yesterday at D’Urban Park, Homestretch Avenue, Georgetown to participate in the Ministry of Social Cohesion’s inaugural National Day of Prayer.
The event held under the theme “Working Together, Building Bridges” is a part of the calendar of events planned to celebrate Guyana’s Golden Jubilee of Independence.
For many, yesterday’s National Day of Prayer was considered timely. Prayers were offered by leaders in the Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Bahai and Rastafarian religious communities.
President David Granger and Minister of Social Cohesion, Amna Ally, Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, First Lady Sandra Granger, Mrs. Sita Nagamootoo, Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr. Barton Scotland, members of the Cabinet and members of the Diplomatic Corps were all present at the event. Notably absent were members of the opposition party, PPP/C.
Delivering the feature address, President Granger said, “Social cohesion is about fostering greater integration in our nation…integration is intended to create a sense of belonging. It is intended to give recognition to all groups and to allow them to freely practice their culture. Integration expands the space for diversity.”
The President added, “Social Cohesion Day presents the nation with a golden opportunity to discard its divisive political culture and to deepen its commitment to a more inclusive society.” He added that the day creates a sense of inclusion and combats exclusion, celebrates and appreciates the people of different backgrounds and recognizes that our nation is now and always will be multi-religious, multi-ethnic and multi-cultural.
“Our diversity is an asset…not a liability,” President Granger emphasized. He went on to highlight those things that make Guyana diverse such as its rich flora and fauna, the six ethnic groups, traditions, culture and heritage.
The President recognized that Social Cohesion respects the differences among groups. “It acknowledges, however, that if left unattended, those differences can threaten mutual trust and can weaken people’s sense of belonging; Social Cohesion can prevent social instability – arising from social, economic, political and class divisions between groups – from festering,” he said.
He also said that Social Cohesion can create an environment in which accords and agreements, beliefs and laws are respected and enforced and society is not allowed to degenerate into distrust, disharmony and, worst of all, disorder.
He said that our generation has an obligation, at this celebration of our Independence Jubilee, to repair past damage, to restore trust and to rebuild the bases of a ‘moral community.
.”Social cohesion does not require people to abandon their cultural practices and adopt another culture. It accords greater recognition to every ethnic group and encourages the promotion of their practices. Everyone will feel more accepted and, thus, will be imbued with a greater sense of belonging.”
Minister of Social Cohesion, Amna Ally, in her presentation noted that the event was a part of a day of activities; last evening an exposition was held at the National Cultural Centre where Guyana’s historical legacy was on display.
The National Day of Prayer is not only being held in Georgetown, but similar activities are being held in each administrative region. This is the first event of its kind.
“What (happened) this morning will be spiritually transformative for this great nation of ours,”said Minister Ali.
Minister Ali recognized that “since May, last year, our administration has promised to do all within its power to ensure that Guyana becomes a functionally transformative and sustainable nation in every aspect.”
With regard to the day’s event, the Minister acknowledged that prayer has always been significant to the Guyanese culture as most Guyanese, regardless of their religious or cultural differences, have long turned to prayer to seek protection, peace and exhibit appreciation.
“On this National Day of Prayer we must rededicate ourselves to building a unified and socially cohesive nation-state,” Minister Ali posited.
Aside from the prayers, the large gathering was treated to cultural presentations and performances by the National Steel Orchestra, the Joint Forces Band, the First Assembly Choir, the ISA Islamic School, Mariam Williams, AFF Nashe Group Guyana, Roshini Persaud and Pastor Sean Sobers from the Destiny Empowerment Worship Centre.
Prior to the official start of the programme, 10 Regional flags, representing each Administrative Region, were hoisted by members of the Guyana Scouts Association.
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