By LEON SUSERAN
The Prime Minister of Guyana, Hon Mark Phillips; Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance, Hon Gail Teixiera; and Minister of Housing and Water Hon Collin Croal visited several mandirs and churches in October this year.
First stop on the October 10th, 2021 tour, was Our Savior Lutheran Church, in Jamaica, where they were greeted by Senior Pastor Bob Fitch. The team was accompanied by the Advisor to the Diaspora Joe Yussuf and other Consulate staff.
Pastor Bob highlighted his congregation is the largest Caribbean Lutheran one in NYC, and that his parish has hosted numerous dignitaries from Guyana. The faithful were addressed by the two ministers and the Prime Minister.
Croal stated that the church plays its roles in dealing with the challenges that the world faces, “it helps bring us together.” Minister Teixiera reflected on the over 200- year history of the Lutheran church in Guyana, and alluded to some of the more beautiful churches in Guyana, including Redeemer on Sherriff Street. “In Guyana, we want to bring you the message of hope, and progress and struggle to make sure democracy prevails.” She outlined the diverse population and ethnicities as well as religions that exist in Guyana . “We are blessed and will use all that positivity to make our country grow and develop, so that is what our task is, as an elected government.”
“We have much work that we’re doing and we hope that you stay in touch.” She added that the Government of Guyana looks forward to host a national stakeholders group which also deals with religious bodies, and stated that the Lutheran church is involved.
PM Phillips said he was honored to be in the church. “No better place to be on Sunday morning than in the House of the Lord.” He was honored to hear of numerous Guyanese Lutherans and that they still carry on the tradition in another country.
“We intend to make Guyana a modern country through our leadership, economic, social development geared to improve the life of all Guyanese, our approach to political direction in Guyana is for economic and social development, so lives would improve and of course we will stay connected to the Lutheran church.”
Meanwhile, after she was welcomed Dr Satish Prakash of the Gurukula Temple in Jamaica, Queens, “the doors of this mandir are always opened to anyone in government…and also the Opposition.” The visiting team were treated with bhajans and other songs as well as goodie bags with sweet meats. Minister Teixiera congratulated the Gurukula for maintaining such a beautiful house of worship as she looked around saw so many paintings. “You in the Diaspora, in this mandir who supported us, spiritually, mentally and physically—without your support—we have done a lot over the year, despite Covid.”
The Chief Whip alluded to Guyana’s massive (and costly) vaccination drive which saw the Irfaan Ali- led Administration purchasing large amounts of doses of vaccines to get the pandemic under control there. “So it comes at a great cost as we try to move the country forward…this is a time for Guyana, a golden opportunity for us as a people…to really move our country forward in the best way possible.”
The final stop was at New Haven Christian Ministries in South Richmond Hill, where the PM and entourage were welcomed by the popular Guyanese folk song “Small Days” and worshipers waved Golden Arrowheads as PM walked in the church’s auditorium. This was followed by a rendition of ‘Dear Land of Guyana’, by a member of the church choir.
Chief of Staff of NY State Assembly Woman Jenifer Rajkumar, Ms Vjola Isufaj, took the stage and presented the PM with a Citation from NY State, for his dedicated service to Guyana through serving in the Guyana Defense Force (GDF), and exemplary leadership as Prime Minister. Remarks were made by the two ministers as well.
Representing the clergy community, Pastor James Richmond presented one of his popular books he wrote to the Prime Minister and other two ministers.
During his address, PM Phillips alluded to Guyana being the land of opportunities. “Oil and gas has made us the richest country per capita in Latin America and the Caribbean—what is important for us is to manage the revenue of oil and Gas to ensure all the people benefit.”
He noted the electoral process held in 2020 ensured democracy remained and prevailed in Guyana. “Now is the time for our government to be working with all the political actors in Guyana to help Guyana realize the dreams for development, and we recognize the important role of religion.”
“You have a government that is committed to transforming Guyana, to ensure that you have a Guyana where you, in the Diaspora, want to come home…to invest…when you retire, no longer we want you to think of Miami—retire in Guyana, because everything—reliable electricity, increased bandwidth – 5G—good education for your children and grandchildren. Those are the concerns you raised and we are working overtime on those concerns.”
Guyana will be transformed in a decade, he stated, and urged the Diaspora to be involved too.
Then the gathering sang the birthday song for PM Phillips who had celebrated his birthday just the past week.
The team also stopped at the Tulsi Mandir in Little Guyana and participated in the service there. The Guyana Ministerial and Government team were passing through NYC during a week- long trip that entailed meeting with private sector, religious leaders and other civic engagements in Florida, New Jersey, Brooklyn and Queens, New York, before returning to Guyana.