Guyana wins plaudits in US Report on religious freedom

…says Govt continues to promote religious tolerance & diversity

Guyana has won plaudits in the United States’ (US) latest report on religious freedom, which quoted religious leaders as saying that the Guyana Government has been consistent in trying to promote religious tolerance and diversity.
According to the report, the Government has presided over a pluralistic society where the three denominations, Christians, Muslims and Hindus, live in relative harmony. Additionally, it was noted that the Constitution itself provides for freedom of religion and worship, including the right to choose and change one’s religion.
Another observation of the report is the schooling system, which it noted features no religious education in public schools even if the school is religious affiliated. However, there are different rules for private religious schools.
“There are both public and private religiously affiliated schools. Private schools are operated entirely by private groups and are not funded by the State. All students attending private religious schools must participate in religious education, regardless of a student’s religious beliefs,” the report said.
Meanwhile, it was further observed that the Government itself has interactions with all religious faiths. Reference was made to December, when Minister of Culture, Youth, and Sports Charles Ramson said he was focused on ensuring public observances of national holidays were religiously diverse, while having members of different religious groups participate actively in national celebrations.
“He also said he was committed to holding a dialogue with all religious organizations to better understand their needs and concerns. Government representatives continued to meet with leaders of various religious groups to promote social cohesion and discuss tolerance of diversity, including Muslim, Hindu, and Christian groups.”
“Government officials also participated regularly in the observance of Christian, Hindu, and Islamic religious holidays throughout the year. The Government continued to declare some holy days of the country’s three major religious groups, including Eid al-Adha, Holi, Easter, and Diwali, as national holidays,” the report said.
Mention was also made of the representatives of the Rastafarian community, who continued to complain that a law criminalising the possession of marijuana infringed on their religious practices. It is something that the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) has made significant progress in addressing since coming to power last year.
“In September, at an interfaith roundtable, a representative of the council said the group would be advocating with the newly installed Government to decriminalise marijuana possession for religious purposes. The council also asked for international support to lobby the Government,” the report said.
“In December, the Cabinet approved a decision to amend the law to remove custodial sentencing for small amounts of marijuana. It also said it was deliberating on the quantity that would not mandate custodial sentencing.”
During a press conference last year, Attorney General Anil Nandlall had said the removal of custodial sentencing for small amounts of marijuana is a manifesto promise the PPP/C Administration intends to keep. (G3)