Georgetown, Guyana — (April 12, 2018) Minister of Social Cohesion, Dr. George Norton, this morning, declared open Harmony Village, while highlighting the right of all Guyanese to celebrate their unique cultural heritage and the value of embracing the nation’s diversity. The Minister made these remarks at the Opening Ceremony of Harmony Village, held on Main Street, Georgetown.

“We all are Guyanese; proud and patriotic. I do firmly believe that unity does not necessarily lie in uniformity. Unity is all about variety… We deserve to be exposed to different perspectives and ways of life… We must understand and respect the belief and customs of our fellow brothers and sisters,” he said.

Minister Norton also said that closed-mindedness closes the doors that lead to unity in Guyana. “If we all are to look the same, if we should have the same thoughts, the same knowledge and beliefs, then we would all be guilty of being narrow-minded and that will rob us of our growth and fulfilment and reduce our curiosity as a people… For us to become truly united… we must first be cognisant and fully comfortable and aware of who we are as individuals. The key to us embracing diversity and promoting tolerance is to be proud of ourselves, our culture… traditions, ethnicities, religions, and all the things that make us who we are as individuals,” he said.

The Minister closed his remarks by saying that unity in diversity now leaves a positive legacy for the young people, who will one day lead Guyana. “Our children and grandchildren deserve to grow up in a world where they… can be embraced and loved for who they are regardless of what they look like, regardless of who they worship, what their cultures and traditions are, and even what political parties they support… This is unity and we must celebrate it to its fullest… This land belongs to all of us… each of us has an equal place here in Guyana… Let us celebrate ourselves and those who came before us, for we all are one people living in one nation, treading on one destiny,” he said.

Ministry of the Presidency, Department of Social Cohesion, Permanent Secretary (Ag.), Ms. Melissa Tucker said Harmony Village is about inclusiveness and respect. “Our cultural diversity is one of our greatest strengths and is at the heart of who we are and it makes Guyana a great place to live… Harmony Village is our opportunity to celebrate this diversity and to highlight our shared commitment to peaceful, inclusive, sustainable, and equitable development for all. This is a time we can use to reflect and celebrate Guyana’s efforts in becoming a racially harmonious nation and society built on a rich diversity of culture and heritage,” she said.

Coordinator of the Department of Social Cohesion, Ms. Sharon Patterson reaffirmed the Department’s commitment to achieving unity across Guyana, adding that the groundwork that they have done since 2015 is beginning to bear fruit. “I believe what is happening is that we are demonstrating that cohesion and harmony are not illusive, but are achievable… The vision for a cohesive Guyana is one where our diversities or our differences are embraced, where our conflicts are resolved, where networks and collaborations with stakeholders are strengthened, equity is promoted and decision making processes result in equal opportunities and benefits for all. The Ministry is committed to providing and facilitating opportunities of this nature,” she said.

Department of Youth representative, Mr. Jude Holder, in an invited comment, said that youths exposure to other ways of life will push Guyana forward. “Our programme is a spectrum of individuals. We cater for the young. We cater for the old… We have no stipulations as [it relates] to ethnicity, as [it relates] to religion because all this would empower us as well. We need this sort of diversity in our lives so that we may become better individuals in society,” he said.

French native and world traveller, Mr. Antony D’Oliveira recently arrived in Guyana and was introduced to Guyanese culture while attending Harmony Village. “I was really interested to visit Guyana… Before, I hadn’t heard about this place… Many people, I think, stay behind their culture… and they’re scared to go to… another country. When you actually go somewhere, [what] you can see is totally different from what you see on TV… The culture is really nice and represented [well],” he said.

Harmony Village was piloted last year and is held this year under the theme ‘Building Partnerships; Promoting Community and National Cohesion’. This year’s edition featured over 100 booths representing over 90 organisations across nine sectors of Guyanese society. This includes the religious, Government and non-government organisations, the business and international community, the rights commissions, business community, representatives of culture, craft, and sport.

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