Christian leaders should act to ensure the wellbeing of their congregations outside the church environment

Dear Editor,

Note is taken that President Ramotar has reached out to the Christian community to seek support for the passage of the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) Bill. The leaders in the Christian community who met with the President are reminded of the importance of this bill to the integrity and reputation of Guyana and the protection of every Guyanese from illegal activities that would harm their lives and negatively alter their day-to-day security. They are further reminded that the non-passage of this bill has to do with the government insistence to ignore tenets of the constitution and adamant refusal thus far to negotiate in good faith with the opposition and bring about needed societal development consistent with this supreme instrument of state.

The church has historically played an important role in man’s development and marginalisation/oppression. Ours is a history that has seen most churches blessing atrocities such as slavery, indentureship and colonialism. The commonality of these systems is that they operated from the belief that some are inherently inferior and set about establishing a system to maintain this order. This notion led to and gives justification to turning a blind eye to poverty, police brutality, abuse of the state’s resources to enrich and protect a few as the masses suffer from hunger, fear and want, and a few living the lives of kings on the backs of the unpaid or underpaid workers whose conditions of work and standard of living are of no concern to them.

Conversely, the church also has a progressive stance, not dissimilar to Christ’s teachings, in crusading the land, demanding and working for the equality of all men/women. Among the first hymns children learnt was “Jesus loves the little children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white, all are precious in His sight…” The hymnal has shaped an outlook to life, guided policies, declarations, conventions and lawmaking, and has informed the struggles for justice and fair play across the world. It has led religious organisations to play leading role in the struggles for equality from the days of captivity to now.

The fight for equality has led and guided men of our era like Reverend Dr Martin Luther King Jr in the rallying call that “injustice anywhere poses a threat to justice everywhere,” and continuing the crusade to right the wrongs. Some may seek refuge in the argument that his activism got him his death. To this concern it is important to ponder whether a man’s life is worth living if he is not prepared to die for something. King and others have paid the ultimate price. We owe it to their sacrifice to preserve, defend and build on the legacy.

The issue of the AML/CFT is not only about passage, it is also about guaranteeing to this society universal respect for the Guyana Constitution, which President Ramotar, all his ministers and PPP Members of Parliament have sworn to uphold.

It is this very constitution that guarantees the right of religious organisations to exist and affords protection from discrimination for their congregants. These congregants are also workers and citizens of this nation, all of whom the constitution safeguards and whose rights and wellbeing it protects outside the church. Some of these include the effective and efficient management of the state and its resources, the right to a trade union of choice and collective bargaining flowing therefrom, the right to stipulated participation in electing local representatives through a local government system and the establishment of its oversight body.

The churchgoer is a holistic being with holistic needs and the leadership in the Christian community must too focus on the matters external to attendance and monetary collections, because they impact on each other. The congregants must also see their leadership act in accord in ensuring their wellbeing outside of the church environment. Sunday, Saturday, or any day identified for worship, must be a day in the religious calendar not only as a day to pray for lost souls and repentance, but one that will also equip attendants with knowledge and skills to effectively and efficiently function in the wider society.

Today, leaders in the Christian community must choose which theology they will practice. Will it be the theology that seeks to liberate the masses from their unjust political, social and economic conditions? Or will it be the theology practised by some leaders of yore that endorse and give blessing to national policies built on the perpetuation and enforcement of unjust political, social and economic conditions and disregard for the rule of law? The society is watching and history is recording this section of civil society usually seen as the nation’s moral compass and conscience.

 

Yours faithfully,
Lincoln Lewis

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