By Dr. DHANPAUL NARINE
An interfaith service was held at York College in New York to mark the 52nd Anniversary of Guyana’s independence. The service drew a cross-section of the Guyanese community and was held under the patronage of the Permanent Mission of Guyana to the United Nations and the Consulate General of Guyana to New York.
Ave Brewster-Haynes welcomed the guests while Anthony Alleyne sang the national anthems of the United States and Guyana. There were prayers from Bishop Robin Dinnanauth, Sheik Mohammed Shaffeiq and Acharya Arun Gossai. The readings from the scriptures were done by Imam Mansoor Khan, Sheik Mohammed Shaffeiq from the Koran, Sister Shareen Maison and Rev. Vernon Peters from the Bible and Acharya Arun Gossai and Acharya Leila Gossai from the Bhagavad Gita.
There was also a musical selection. The Harte sisters sang beautifully while the Dasrat brothers played wonderfully on the table and harmonium and Sasha Blackman mesmerized the audience with her rendition of Amazing Grace on the flute. Messages to the community were delivered by Imam Mansoor Khan, Yogendra Ram, and Pastor James Richmond. Members of the University of Guyana support group AFOUG were at the celebrations and they included Dr. Terrence Blackman, Karen Wharton and Dr. Dhanpaul Narine.
Guyana’s Consul General to New York is Ms. Barbara Atherly. She said that Guyanese have come a long way as she brought greetings to the diaspora. She called for unity that reflected the theme of the event ‘Six Peoples living and Working together in Unity.’ She said that all of the 83,000 square miles, from Pakaraima peaks of power to the Corentyne lush sands, belong to Guyana.
Ms. Atherly said that Guyana’s symbol of nationhood include the flag, anthem and motto and awards, festivals and monuments and they combine to establish the national character. The symbolism of the flag arouses pride. According to the Consul-General, ‘we need to pursue national unity all levels, including here in the diaspora so we can combat challenges. We must move forward as a united nation, constantly reaffirming our national motto of one people, one nation with one destiny.’
Our history is one of indigenous struggles, slavery and indentureship and from these struggles Guyanese should work together to build one country. They should guard against external threat as well. One’s pride for his or her country should not happen when the country becomes great ‘but the country becomes great because of the pride in it.’
Ms. Atherly was followed by Guyana’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, His Excellency Ambassador Rudolph Ten-Pow. He said it was good that the meeting was an inter-faith service as the religions symbolize the diversity of Guyana. At the core of the teachings is the message to love one’s neighbor. This love should cut across ethnicity and skin color and political affiliation.
The love should be without qualifications, ‘because we are all Guyanese whether we live in Guyana or here in the diaspora. We are one people, one nation, with a journey to one destination and that destination is a place where we live harmoniously together.’ Ambassador Ten-Pow said we should work together as one people to make Guyana a better place.
He believed that Guyana’s diversity is a source of strength and enrichment. He said that iron by itself is strong but when it is mixed with carbon, manganese, and chromium, and other elements, it results in steel that is even stronger. The teachings of the great religions could help strengthen the moral fabric of the society as ‘development without morality is no development at all.’
Development is not only about oil and gas and fancy gadgets. Development should be people-centered if progress is to be realized, according to the Ambassador. We should build a kinder, gentler and a more caring society and organized religion can play the role of teaching people to love each other.
He pointed that Amerindians are the first peoples. They should be celebrated as they too are a part of the fabric of Guyanese society. Ambassador Ten-Pow called for a re-commitment of Guyanese to the task of nation-building so we can have a more caring Guyana.
The closing prayers were delivered by Sheik Mohammed Shaffieq, Acharya Arun Gossai and Pastor Vernon Peters. A selection of Guyanese folk music and dishes brought the proceedings to a close.