EYEWITNESS: So what do we do about… prayers in state institutions?

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana

A very healthy debate was conducted in the letters’ column of the dailies on the question of prayers in schools and other Government activities and institutions. This (sore) topic has erupted time and again over the years, without any action being taken by the Government to take a definitive stand. But maybe the inaction IS their stand – to keep the status quo. The problem is that we inherited a state from Britain that’s explicitly Christian: the Queen’s the Head of the Church of England – the Anglican Church.

The British make no bones about their orientation, and for the hundred and fifty years they lorded it over us, they made sure we toed the line and dropped to our knees! For most folks, it started in the schools, where the “Lord’s Prayer” had to be recited at the beginning of every school day. This bequeathed the tradition that prayers must be offered at the start of any Government function. After all that time, no one questioned things, even though there were at least three religions in Guyana – Christianity, Hinduism and Islam. The spiritual practices of the Africans who’d been enslaved had been dubbed as “heathen”, and literally beaten out of them.

So, here in was in (the year of our Lord!) 2021 that, at the beginning of a Ministry of Education programme, a prayer was recited that drew objections from Swami Aksharananda. This was a Christian prayer, yet the Constitution that’s our supreme law says we’re a “secular” state!! How come it was that, once again, Christianity trumped all the other religions? “Not so!” replied the Ministry…the prayer was a “Universal Prayer”, and in fact was the one recited by the elected Members of Parliament before each sitting!! The theory was – your Eyewitness suspects – that if those paragons of religious virtue and rectitude didn’t object, why should the Swami!?!

Turned out that the MoE’s claim was erroneous – and this was pointed out by the Swami soon enough. The so-called “Universal Prayer” retained Christian elements tacked onto a mishmash that included elements of a famous poem by Tagore – Gitanjali. The Ministry hasn’t responded. But in the back-and-forth responses, the lingering effects of the foundational Christian hegemony were very apparent. In the end, however, former President Donald Ramotar made the most pertinent recommendation – just do away with any kind of prayer at Government functions!!

No matter how we contort our formulations to call them “universal”, some religion or other will be slighted – even if they’re included. For instance, references to “Our Lord” will certainly offend those who worship the Divinity as “Our Mother”!

So, will the Govt now just stop with the prayers?

…our climate?

Once again, the nations of the world are meeting – this time in Scotland at COP 26 – to make some decisions as to what they’ll be doing about Climate Change – brought on by the warming atmosphere because of us burning fossil fuels. There’s been resistance to that conclusion – but they’re now seen as part of a lunatic fringe. Now, back at the Paris COP 25 in 2015, scads of decisions had been made towards the same goals. But not a single one was kept – especially by the big ones who do most of the climate damage – the US and China.

And yet there are some in Guyana who want us, like Atlas, to put the world on our shoulders and stop producing any oil to save that world. Have those folks heard the phrase “Atlas shrugged”? That’s what your Eyewitness suggests our reps to COP 26 do – shrug and let the world fall from our shoulders.

Those developed nations have much broader shoulders built over the centuries using fossil fuels!


There are squeals of outrage that Goocool Boodhoo applied for the vacant position of CEO at GECOM. Well, the man’s the most qualified for the position, isn’t he?

And isn’t before the Courts, is he?