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On what basis and who decided the ministry’s “true religion?”

Dear Editor,

In its statement on the question of the prayer recited on the occasion of the declaration of the 2020 CXC results (SN 10/21/2021), Ministry of Education admits that its intention and policy regarding prayers are at times subverted. This surprises no one. What is surprising is the insistence that the prayer is, “a universal one,” the very “same one,” recited at the sittings of the National

Assembly. This is a blatant untruth. Two significant changes, inclusion of “heavenly father,” and “amen” the signature ending of Christian prayers, which are not the National Assembly so-called universal version, were sneaked in.  Clearly, not the “same one” used in the assembly. Why those responsible for perpetrating this mischief have chosen to ignore the changes and repeat the lie is known only to themselves, but the changes, especially the first one, “heavenly father,” are critical from a purely Christian theological perspective and simply cannot be swept away by this deception. It is also clear that both the decision to Christianise the prayer and the decision to exclude others were intentional. It is for this reason that we feel that attempts now being made to pass off it as “the universal prayer” doubles the insult to those who have been so ignored and marginalised.

Let it be clear that I do not have any problem with the prayer invoking “heavenly father,” and ending with “amen.”  Every person is free to pray in whatever manner she or he chooses. But we are talking about Christian only prayers at an important state function in a supposedly secular society in which there is no official state religion and in which no religion is accorded a privileged status. This scenario perpetuating dominance of one religion reminds one of Orwell. All of us are equal but some of us are more equal. Let us also remember that we are dealing with the department of government that is responsible for education of the nation’s children, an education, one expects, founded on truth and on not causing pain and hurt to others, both of which, unfortunately, have been casualties in this sordid affair. It is now only left for us to ask, in despair, if our department of education would engage in such distortion and manipulation, what hope is there for the future? Finally, on a different note, both the National Assembly prayer and the MOE variant have a curious line that needs to be urgently examined and expunged, that is the line seeking God’s guidance for “the maintenance of true religion” in the assembly version and, “the maintenance and extension of true religion” in the MOE version. What on earth is meant by “true religion?” Who decides this and on what basis?

True religion versus false religion, true God versus a false God, true Prophet versus a false one – these are coded constructions embedded in a religious language of hate and violence. If not the entire prayer, which is nothing but an abomination bereft in heart and soul, lacerating the grandeur and beauty of Tagore’s “Where the mind is without fear,” at least the line on “true religion” must be expunged forthwith.

Sincerely,

Swami Aksharananda

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I am not sure what to make of the Swami's complaint.  Hold your head high Swamiji and be the good Hindu you appear to be.  It is important to note that Priya Manickchand appears to be a Hindu.  If she is not offended by the universal prayer why should anyone else? Isn't the all powerful, all knowing VP a Hindu?  Why has he not changed the universal prayer? 

I gave a buddy of mine ( he's Muslim) be a ride to an AA meeting and as it was cold I stayed inside. It was mentioned AA is not about religion, yet at the end of the meeting they said the Lord's prayer (Our Father) go figure.

Last edited by cain

The Universal Prayer is no substitute for the Christian, Muslim and Hindu prayers


Kaieteur News – One of the first significant acts of the APNU+AFC when it took office was to draft a universal prayer for schools. It was a monumental mistake because the emerging prayer appears to convey the impression that it is a universal Christian prayer with little reference to the divinities of the other major religions, notably Islam and Hinduism.
This very fact has reignited the debate about the types of prayers which are said in school at major events, including the just-held presentation of examination reports for the National Grade Six Assessment. During that presentation, the universal prayer was said and this cause one Hindu religious leader to complain about the absence of Hindu and Islamic prayers during the event.
The Ministry has responded by indicating that the prayer recited at that event was the Universal Prayer which is also read in the National Assembly. But the Ministry misses the point: what was to prevent the Ministry from saying Christian, Hindu and Islamic prayers?
Surely, there could have been no harm in doing so since the event was pre-planned and arrangements could have been put in place to have the representatives of all three major religions present to say prayers. This is quite different from the situation in the National Assembly whose sittings can run for days which makes it more practical to use the Universal Prayer than for each day to have three representatives, one each from the major religious groupings, attend to say prayers.
The issue of prayers in schools is important to freedom of conscience. Children have a right to be able to be free of any form of compulsion to take an oath which is contrary to their belief. This implies, conversely, that every child should have a right to be able to say his or her prayers in school and not be subject to some universal prayer.
When the APNU+AFC drafted its Universal Prayer, it said that a number of bodies had granted approval. The then Minister of Education, Dr. Rupert Roopnarine, said that consultations with various religious bodies had begun and that he believed that the prayer would have satisfied all three of our major religious groups.
Dr. Roopnarine had made it clear that it was his intention to implement universal prayers across the public school system, arguing that the reciting of only Christian prayers in some schools may be a preference of the teachers but was not a policy of his Ministry.
Dr. Rupert Roopnarine noted that while we are a multi-religious country, we have to realise that we have multi-religious children so that whatever prayer is used in schools should not exclude any of the religions.
In a Kaieteur News article in December 2015, it was observed that several religious bodies and organisations had come in support of the plans for a universal prayer. Amongst those said to be in favour of the change are the Guyana Presbyterian Church, Guyana Teachers’ Union and the Guyana Hindu Dharmic Sabha.
All were of the opinion that the practice has been going on for too long. In fact, this newspaper reported a senior official of the Guyana Hindu Dharmic Sabha, as claiming that sections of her organisation had brought up the issue of having universal prayers in public schools with previous Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand. The official said that while promises were made, no follow up action was taken by the Ministry.
But the Ministry of Education in its release this week stated that “The Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand, during her previous stint as Education Minister had insisted that whenever a prayer is done at any function hosted by the Ministry or any of its departments, the universal prayer or a silent prayer is done with the only exception being those events held in Amerindian communities.”
While it was laudable that there is universal prayer, which was supposedly developed in consultation with religious groups, there needs to be an assessment of the extent to which this prayer hinders or limits children’s right to freedom of conscience. There equally needs to be a reevaluation of whether that prayer can be truly said to be of a universal character in the sense that it is suitable for all three of the country’s main religious groups.
There is no reason why by now the Islamic, Christians and Hindu prayers should not be recited in all schools. This would show a true commitment to multiculturalism.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)

Source:

@cain posted:

I gave a buddy of mine ( he's Muslim) be a ride to an AA meeting and as it was cold I stayed inside. It was mentioned AA is not about religion, yet at the end of the meeting they said the Lord's prayer (Our Father) go figure.

Is the Lord's prayer really a Christian prayer?  Recite it and identify which part of it is Christian.  I know that in the Catholic mass it is identified as the way Jesus taught us to pray but an expert on Christian scripture told me that the words of the prayer simply don't align with those used in that period of history.  We should be free to pray in whatever way that brings comfort to us.  Couldn't the Swami have simply recited the Gayatri mantra while others recited what was supposedly a universal prayer?

Here is the Swami's contention:

What is surprising is the insistence that the prayer is, “a universal one,” the very “same one,” recited at the sittings of the National Assembly. This is a blatant untruth. Two significant changes, inclusion of “heavenly father,” and “amen” the signature ending of Christian prayers, which are not the National Assembly so-called universal version, were sneaked in. Clearly, not the “same one” used in the assembly. Why those responsible for perpetrating this mischief have chosen to ignore the changes and repeat the lie is known only to themselves, but the changes, especially the first one, “heavenly father,” are critical from a purely Christian theological perspective and simply cannot be swept away by this deception. It is also clear that both the decision to Christianise the prayer and the decision to exclude others were intentional. It is for this reason that we feel that attempts now being made to pass off it as “the universal prayer” doubles the insult to those who have been so ignored and marginalised.

@Totaram posted:

Is the Lord's prayer really a Christian prayer?  Recite it and identify which part of it is Christian.  I know that in the Catholic mass it is identified as the way Jesus taught us to pray but an expert on Christian scripture told me that the words of the prayer simply don't align with those used in that period of history.  We should be free to pray in whatever way that brings comfort to us.  Couldn't the Swami have simply recited the Gayatri mantra while others recited what was supposedly a universal prayer?

The Lord's prayer is found in The Bible, I would say it is a Christian prayer. AA is not supposed to have anything to do with any religion, why would they even think of adding a Christian prayer to their meetings?

@Totaram posted:

Is the Lord's prayer really a Christian prayer?  Recite it and identify which part of it is Christian.  I know that in the Catholic mass it is identified as the way Jesus taught us to pray but an expert on Christian scripture told me that the words of the prayer simply don't align with those used in that period of history.  We should be free to pray in whatever way that brings comfort to us.  Couldn't the Swami have simply recited the Gayatri mantra while others recited what was supposedly a universal prayer?

One of the first prayers I learnt was this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nT0VJH9cpEk

1: tvamēva mātā cha pitā tvamēva . You Truly are my Mother And You Truly are my Father .

2: tvamēva bandhuścha sakhā tvamēva . You Truly are my real Relative And You Truly are my best Friend/companion.

3: tvamēva vidyā draviṇam tvamēva . You Truly are my supreme Learning and You Truly are my true Wealth.

4: tvamēva sarvam mama dēva dēva ..  You Truly are my Everything, You are My God beyond all gods.

@cain posted:

The Lord's prayer is found in The Bible, I would say it is a Christian prayer. AA is not supposed to have anything to do with any religion, why would they even think of adding a Christian prayer to their meetings?

I went to Anglican School and even though the majority were Hindu kids, we were taught "the Lord's prayer" and recited it every morning before class started.

Last edited by Mitwah
@Mitwah posted:

I went to Anglican School and even though the majority were Hindu kids, we were taught "the Lord's prayer" and recited it every morning before class started.

I am Catholic but now attend the United Church, even joined their choir. At one time I would have said as long as we said a prayer it's okay. This might be true in a sense but would Christians accept a prayer as those in your previous post? I think not.

Let's check with Bro Keith, that banna would probably blow a fuse. To some, theirs is the true religion.

Last edited by cain

Perhaps the best solution would be a complete separation of church and state.  Get rid of all prayers in government institutions and functions.  As far as I am concerned I could pray whenever and wherever I feel like.  I don't need to impose my beliefs on others and they should not try to impose theirs on me. I believe Rupert Roopnarine took on a thankless task when he agreed to overlook the composition of a universal prayer.  Sooner or later someone was bound to question its neutrality. 

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