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.”

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