Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Anglican Bishop Charles Davidson's Remarks at Inter-faith Service

 Remarks by Anglican Bishop Charles Davidson, Diocese of Guyana
Inter-Faith Service to Launch the Inaugural Guyana Pride Festival
Catholic Life Centre - Georgetown, Guyana
May 25, 2017

  (Photo credit: Anglican Human Rights and Social Justice Commission)

From early church times voices were raised against discrimination in all its forms.

We believe that we are all children of God and therefore brothers and sisters who must experience the love of God in all its forms.  Racial, gender and sexual orientation discrimination must not be allowed to continue to be part of our life together.

It is the right of the LGBT community to bring awareness to a subject that drives fear and sometimes violent reactions from many.  We pray that this time will be one of listening with appreciative ears to those who differ from us in their sexual orientation.

We affirm that homosexual orientation in itself is no bar to a faithful Christian life or to full participation in lay and ordained ministry in the Church and acknowledge the importance of lesbian and gay members of our Church participating in the listening process as full members of the Church.
As Christians we are all call to lives of holiness which we achieve through repentance and forgiveness.  Our belief calls us to be reconciled to God and to each other.

We pray for God’s guidance as you begin your activities and pray for peace and a deep respect for the LGBT community.

Remarks delivered by Schemel Patrick, Chairperson of the Human Rights and Social Justice Commission, on behalf of the Bishop. 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Scheherazade Khan's Remarks at Inter-faith Service

Remarks by Scheherazade Khan, Islamic Representative
Inter-Faith Service to Launch the Inaugural Guyana Pride Festival
Catholic Life Centre - Georgetown, Guyana
May 25, 2017

Scheherazade explained that Islam is at a crossroads, as the youngest of the world's major faiths, and is currently undergoing a period of "sturm und drang" – a period of turmoil within itself to identify with changing times and a progressive world around it. 

She expressed that Muslims around the world are horrified by the violence that is being committed in the name of Islam, “The radical wahabbism ideology promulgated by countries such as Saudi Arabia is creating an intellectual void in the religion, one that is readily filled with hateful intolerance. This should not be, In his last sermon, the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) admonished is that no Muslim is superior to any other, specifically mentioning that no Arab Muslim is better than any other type of Muslim.”

She explained that the Islamic community cannot be intolerant and disavow everyone, nor can they deny that their God admonishes us to compassionate, as Muslims are constantly reminded that God is benevolent and merciful. 

“We cannot deny the human rights of others or nor can we continue to live lives filled with animosity for others. Islam was once known as a religion of intellectualism and scholarship, we Muslims must strive to bring it back to that, rejecting the narrow-minded tribalism of Wahabbi Islam.”

Monday, May 29, 2017

Rev. Patricia Sheerattan-Bisnauth's Remarks at Inter-Faith Service

Remarks by Reverend Patricia Sheerattan-Bisnauth of the Guyana Presbyterian Church 
Inter-Faith Service to Launch the Inaugural Guyana Pride Festival
Catholic Life Centre - Georgetown, Guyana
May 25, 2017

“We gather today on the eve of Guyana’s 51st Independence, celebrating our becoming a free people – a people striving towards being One People, One Nation, One Destiny. Guyana has come a long way and we celebrate, achievements made; yet we know that there is much to accomplish as the struggle continues in these times of violence, poverty and inequities; division across race, gender, age, class and sexual orientation, and others. 

Guyana is still a far way from achieving that oneness that we long for, where we respect each other and strive to uphold each other’s dignity. 

I am happy to join in this call for an end to discrimination, particularly, the institutionalized dehumanization of LGBTIQ persons. I urge for us to be proactive in their protection, and to resist the hate perpetuated against our brothers and sisters who on a daily basis face tremendous threats, and denied of their basic human rights. It is time to join if a resounding call for justice and rights! 

Brothers and sisters, this is a wrong-doing, it is a sin to exclude God’s children and enforce a culture of hate and violence. I have listened to too many stories of pain and torture inflicted on LGBTIQ persons – on the streets, in their homes, in schools, hospitals, almost every public space. 

I stand here as a Christian Pastor, acknowledging that the church has been complicit in these death dealing ways, which is contrary to the Gospel that speaks of life and love, of healing and setting the oppressed free. In launching his Ministry on earth, Jesus rolled out his manifesto saying: 

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has chosen me to bring good news to the poor. 

He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind,
to set free the oppressed and announce that the time has come when the Lord will save his people.”
(Luke 4: 18-19) 

The work of the church is to bring healing of our society in Guyana and in the world, where all can enjoy well-being at all levels: physically, mentally, spiritually and socially. This includes the ability to decide on one’s life without discrimination or coercion. We believe that human beings are created in the image of God and unconditionally loved by God, thus every person has, by birth, the right to a full life with dignity within a community.

We are all created in God’s image with intrinsic rights to enjoy the fullness of life offered by Jesus in John 10:10. We strived for Oneness for which Jesus prayed. In the core of or faith is a God who became a human being. A God that came into the world, the Son of God, an infant born of a vulnerable teenage girl, in times of the Roman empire. God becoming a human being, requires a positive recognition of bodily reality against the tendency to focus on spiritual ideals and deny the body. But here is where many Christians and communities have difficulties.

The Guyana Presbyterian Church (GPC) is not a homogenous body with uniform opinions, especially in relation to sexuality and reproduction and the related rights. But with ecumenical partners, we are working towards a theological framework of our ministry, rooted in the cries of those cast out, which emphasizes life-empowering theological interpretation, the inherent dignity of every person and commitment to dialogue. 

We have a great challenge to critically examine the oppressive factors such as the Victorian norms and values which we still slavishly subscribe to, while our reality is much different.  We so urgently need to get to the authenticity of our living faith and to resist what continues to enslave us.  

To be true to our faith, we must dare to let the experiences of lived life affect our theology and interpretation of the Bible. We must challenge the power constructions, which exclude and denigrate persons, which privilege to powerful against the vulnerable. And in every situation where life is under threat and persons are hurting, we are called upon to take a life giving stance. 

For tomorrow’s celebration, let us reflect on how we may take a stance for justice and life; how we may strengthen our nation by breaking barriers that exclude the vulnerable, in particular we think of LGBTIQ persons, the poor, unemployed and marginalized, and those denied justice. Friends, let us resist the death dealing ways and not be swayed by tactics aimed to dispose of people, to shut down urgently needed conversations on sexual rights. Let us advance together.  May God so bless and strengthen us.”

Friday, May 19, 2017

IDAHOT Remarks by the Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Hon. Basil Williams. S.C, M.P.

Good evening,
I wish to thank you for inviting me to make this presentation.

Honourable Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams, S.C;  M.P(Neketa Forde Photo)

Kamala Kempadoo in her article Caribbean Sexuality –Mapping the Field has said:
“Caribbean sexuality is both hyper visible and obscured. That is, it is celebrated in popular culture as an important element in Caribbean social life and flaunted to attract tourists to the region, yet it is shrouded in double extender, secrecy and shame.” 

Sexual orientation and by extension lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights (LGBT) rights are considered a sensitive topic for many people and many governments. The deeply rooted religious and other cultural beliefs as well as accepted norm in the Caribbean have contributed to a climate of intolerance.

These beliefs and views isolate some members of our society and expose them to stigma and discrimination. However despite our differences in views and beliefs there must be a standard that ensures and promotes tolerance. As human International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia & Biphobia let us focus on the similarities we share with each other’s, rather than the differences.

The laws in the Commonwealth Caribbean that criminalize same –sex intimacy are remnants of the regions colonial past. Zoe Mintz in her article ,In the Caribbean:Anti-Sodomy Laws and Persecution, Being Gay is no fun in the islands, explained that “Once slavery was abolished in countries like Guyana and independence eventually gained – the rigorous British infrastructure remained in place to ensure the freedom gained by revolution “wouldn’t fall at the seams”. The remnants that have remained have caused local and international bodies to call for reform of our laws.

In addressing this issue, the Government wrote a letter to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) following the 161st Ordinary Period of Sessions which addressed issues of human rights against young persons in Guyana. The Government noted that the Guyanese people are to decide in a referendum whether homosexuality should remain a criminal offence.

The Government believes that no person should be discriminated on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation, since every citizen has equal access to all Guyana has to offer .This belief is enshrined in our constitution which is the supreme law of the land .The constitution provides by Article 145 that all members of society have a right to freedom of conscience while Article 146 provides for the right of freedom of expression. Article 149 protects our right against discrimination which includes on the basis of sex or gender and Article 149D provided for equality of enjoyment of all rights and freedom.

The Government believes that the principle of universality admits no exception and that human rights are the birth right of all human beings .We believes that the outright injustice, violence, discrimination and marginalization are common form of intolerance .we must respect and appreciate diverse cultures, forms of expression and way of being human. Tolerance recognizes the universal human rights and fundamental   freedom of others .The diversity of our cultures and way of life is not a pretext for conflict, but is a treasure to enriches us all.

Abdur Rafay Usmani, a correspondent from the Commonwealth Youth Programme, stated in his article, ‘What can tolerance of or a nation’ that,‘Tolerance is not simply an attitude but is an essential element for peace, unity and economic well-being of a nation or society. Where everyone is treated equally and given equal opportunity, everyone is able to effectively utilise their talents and resources to improve their living standard.’ 

Adopting this view will help Guyana to continue to develop as a nation. It will inherently result in a bigger middle class and reduced poverty. Abdur Rafay Usmani explained that ‘in society where certain groups are discriminated against, not only are they less able to contribute to the economy, but also this leads to the build-up of ghettos and vulnerable communities.’ Nations that practice discrimination are at a disadvantage, as they risk losing enterprising individuals from victimized groups who tend to move elsewhere. 

Intolerance is very often rooted in ignorance and fear: fear of the unknown, of the other, cultures, nations, religions. Tolerance allows people of different backgrounds, religions and races to work and live together, and this promotes unity. In a tolerant country, every citizen remains loyal to his country and is willing to make sacrifices for the sake of the country. This is the goal of our administration. We recognize that the people of a nation are the foundation on which it is supported, and if there are fractures and faults in the foundation, the nation becomes more vulnerable to collapse. 

In conclusion as Guyanese we must foster a cultural shift. This must begin with our social behaviour. Our language must change. We must refrain from name calling and hate speech. Let us embrace the value of acceptance and equality for everyone. Let us be our brother’s keeper. We must document and expose allegations or reports of human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity promptly. They must be impartially investigated and perpetrators held accountable and brought to justice. Hate speech and condescending attitudes reduce tolerance for homosexuality and encourage the unknown. They must be shunned and penalized. If we want change it must begin with each of us. 

Those who promote human rights have been and remain on the right side of history and history honours them. We must promote inclusiveness: recognize diversity and deepen the protection of fundamental human rights in Guyana. Today I implore you to continue advocating for equality and justice for all citizens, regardless of sexual orientation. Be on the right side of history. 

Thank you.