The Headmistress of Central High School has called those who have made negative criticisms in print and social media about the nature of visits to several local secondary schools by an American missionary group, “narrow-minded”.
Kamlawattie Balroop, in a telephone interview yesterday, said she saw nothing wrong with the visit made by the missionaries of the Faithful Word Baptist Church, headed by Pastor Steven Anderson to her school earlier this month.
She described the encounter as “bringing the word of God in the most explicit way. He was sending a serious message to children about hell and how to avoid going to hell.”
Balroop, a Hindu, expressed that people should “accept God no matter how he is coming to us” and opined that a constructionism approach should be taken to the whole issue, rather than a prejudicial one. Religious doctrine and the teaching of religion, she said, is of gross importance for building the moral fibre of students.
The head teacher stated that she would have done the same for any other religious group that approached the school, noting that persons are usually invited to speak to the students.
Protocol, she explained, requires that organisations desirous of entering the school first go through the Ministry of Education, but in cases where instructional time is not being used up, groups are sometimes allowed in at assembly.
On this occasion, she noted, the missionaries had visited the school on what they said was the day before they were set to travel, and were “so convincing” that they were allowed 15 minutes to speak to the students. She said she did not make the decision alone and even the school’s Bible club had assented. According to Balroop, the school body is largely Christian.
The missionaries, she said, were accommodated on March 7 and 8, during two assembly periods, the first involving students in grades 7, 8 and 9 and the second, made up of grades 10 and 11 students. It is customary for the assemblies to be split in two given the size of the school’s population.
On March 21, this newspaper published a letter titled “Who gave an American missionary permission to preach in Georgetown schools,” which was written by social activist Sherlina Nageer. It made reference to a “disturbing video” seen of a missionary from the Faithful Word Baptist Church “preaching fire and brimstone in a public secondary school,” with the Central High School being cited.
Nageer then questioned who it was that had given permission to the organization, which she referred to as a “designated hate group in the United States,” to enter the school, and stated that in her opinion, “whoever is responsible for this deserves immediate sanctioning.”
She said in the letter, “Notwithstanding the inexplicable (to me) tendency to have prayers at public events, the fact is that Guyana is a secular nation and preaching has absolutely no place in any public school. It’s appalling also that no research was done beforehand to find out that this organization, church designation aside, is a hate group whose members have been deported from several countries. Why are foreigners with hateful agendas being allowed free access to our youth? Is this really what we need more of here in Guyana?”
Two other letters followed Nageer’s, including one by Chris Persaud, titled “Roopnarine should investigate matter of missionaries preaching in Georgetown Schools,” published on March 23, and “Authorities should discipline all those who allowed anti-Hindu missionary to enter public schools,” published on March 24.
The latter, written by Pt C Nandalall, expressed the belief that the object of the missionary was to “discredit Hinduism.” The writer said he had discovered a documentary titled “The Truth about Hinduism,” as well as several other videos, some of which were taped in public schools in Georgetown.
“The documentary presented a crude, vicious and disrespectful image of Hinduism. The pastor then quoted biblical ideologies to demonstrate the so-called superiority of his faith. There was also a relentless attack on the Bhagavad Geeta,” Nandalall stated.
According to reports, members of the Faithful Word Baptist Church were allowed to enter several other local schools, including the St Rose’s High School.
Head teacher of St Rose’s Paula Hamilton, when contacted, stated that the ministry had already dealt with the matter with head teachers and chose not to offer comment.
A video was found on YouTube posted on January 13, showing Faithful Word Baptist Church Member Garrett Kirchway preaching to a group of students. Accompanying the video was the caption “Preaching at Covent Secondary School.”
When contacted, Covent Garden Secondary’s head teacher said that groups would speak at the school from time to time, including religious organizations, although they would usually address general life topics. However, she said that she “does not recall” that particular missionary group going to the school.
Another video titled “Pastor Anderson preaching at public school in Guyana” was posted December 13, 2016. In it, the students were wearing gold shirts and pleated khaki dresses and khaki pants, but the school’s name was not stated.
Chief Education Officer Marcel Hutson could not be reached for comment on the matter.