Agreement for the observance of World Inter Faith Harmony Week was unanimously adopted by the United Nations in 2010 and ever since, February 1-7 annually, has been designated World Interfaith Harmony Week. The initiative has its genesis in what is referred to as “The Common word initiative”, which in 2007, called for Muslim and Christian leaders to engage in dialogue based on two fundamental religious principles and by extension Commandments – Love of God, and Love of the Neighbour. It was agreed on with the understanding that neither would compromise any of their own religious tenets.

The theme, “Love of the Good and Love of the Neighbour’ is commonly used and embraces fundamental theological principles and therefore all mankind of good will, can be included in the observances; those with faiths and those without faiths. The week provides the opportunity annually for interfaith and other groups of goodwill throughout the world to demonstrate what formidable groups and movements they are. Many of them are not only religious groups but also powerful agents of social change. Let me commend those local organisations that have organised initiatives in observance of UN World Inter faith Harmony Week, 2016.

Our country has always been one with a deep reverence for God. As Guyana grows as a nation, we are seeing an increasing role for religion and goodwill in fostering social cohesion. We know once social cohesion as an approach to development is advanced, there would be greater opportunities for citizens to be included in processes. Their participation would enable them to have a sense of belonging to their communities and by extension to Guyana. The Faith based and interfaith partners in Guyana therefore have significant roles in advocating for and taking action to advance socially cohesive communities. As Minister of Social Cohesion, I urge you to be active as agents of change at the local and national levels, for the benefit of your respective gathering/congregations/members/constituents.

I am aware that the discourse on prayer in schools is topical and is being deepened. This administration believes all persons are free to worship God. It is a Constitutional right. Our dynamics are particularly peculiar in Guyana, because of the myriad of cultures, religious persuasions, ethnicities and all those variables, which cause us to be diverse. There would be a conclusion to this discussion and I am sure, here again you have roles to play as Guyana’s Inter Faith Community. Whatever is said and done, let us commit to being a part of the decision making process and doing so respectfully, irrespective of our differences on the ground of religion. Let us do all we can to hold fast to the religious and goodwill landmarks on which our beloved country is built.

Hon. Amna Ally,
Minister of Social Cohesion

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