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Georgetown, Guyana – (January 27, 2016) Minister of Social Cohesion, Ms. Amna Ally, charged all religious, cultural and social groups, agencies and organisations to assume their responsibilities and obligations to ensure that cohesion is realised in Guyana.

Minister Ally made this appeal in her address at the Methodist Church in the Caribbean and the Americas Guyana District Public Forum, which was held under the theme, “Out of the many we are one; Ensuring cohesion within our nation”, this evening at the National Library.

According to the Minister, cohesion must not be embodied in one group or organisation or confined to one area; but must encompass the social, cultural, religious and economic landscapes of the entire nation. She also singled out the church as the main group, since time immemorial, which has taken the lead in promoting peace, giving charity and fostering solidarity among a culturally diverse population. The Minister further noted that when groups and organisations take responsibility for promoting togetherness, only then will Government’s overall objective be realised.

Minister of Social Cohesion, Amna Ally addressing the gathering at the National Library.

“We believe that when the religious institutions, the churches, the mosques, the temples, the groups, the communities and all the other organisations do all what you are doing, it will make the task of the administration less arduous. It will [inform] people about what social cohesion is, the advantages of having a socially cohesive society and how we each can contribute to making our society a socially cohesive one,” Minister Ally said.

The only way that Guyana can truly develop and reach its potential is if Guyanese understand the need to cooperate and respect each other. Cohesion does not only concern race but encompasses religious, social, economic and cultural views and, therefore, work in all of these areas must be done, she added.

“That is why we have the ‘Three Bs’ Programme, to ensure that children attend school and get a good education so that they can have a level playing field for opportunities in nation building. People must have a sense of belonging; people must respect each other and be allowed to participate in the society. They must be included in the processes of development and decision making; they must have equal access to facilities, social services, education, healthcare and job opportunities,” Minister Ally said.

A lack of cohesion would lead to racism, sexism, homophobia, an absence of transparency, violence and a number of other ills, which will ultimately destroy the society, she said. The Social Cohesion Minister appealed to the church to ensure that it engages with society, which can lead to the reduction of many social ills and promote togetherness.

“This is the time for the healing and reconciliation and we must ask ourselves how we can help to ensure that happens. We have to empower the vulnerable groups,” Minister Ally said. “The church should have a positive relationship with humankind and must ensure that its commitment to that mission is conducive. Government is ready and willing to work with all religious organisations as well as members of the civil society to build a society where everyone is given equal access to social services such as health care and education towards the reduction of poverty.”

Meanwhile, in his remarks, Pastor Ronald McGarrell, Chairman of the Inter Religious Organisation (IRO), said that the IRO sees social cohesion as a critical part of moving the country forward.

“For many years, we have seen division in a number of areas. It is imperative that we address this. We are living in an age of globalisation and for the sake of our future and that of our children… it is imperative that we begin to live as one. I cannot overemphasise the importance of bringing our people together,” Pastor McGarrell said.

The onus is on the religious bodies to make sure that they fulfil this mandate as their role in promoting peace and love is greater than any other person’s, official’s or agency’s.

The Forum also included an interactive session where the members of the audience were given an opportunity to share ideas and make suggestions about how to achieve social cohesion. They were also encouraged to pose questions to the Minister on any challenges they were encountering in this endeavour, and other matters.

Members of the IRO, representatives from the various branches of the Methodist Church, persons from the Islamic faith, governmental and other agencies also attended the meeting.

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Chairman of the Inter Religious Organisation (IRO) Pastor Ronald McGarrell delivering his remarks at the event earlier tonight

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