I write this letter in support of Swami Aksharananda and in defence of the Guyanese ethos. Going down the path of facilitating missionary activities, especially in the public school system, is fraught with danger. This is not where we should be expending our energies.
First, I must thank Swami Aksharananda for being brave, and for taking the time to address the important issue of organized proselytization that was allowed free rein in our public school system. There is a sense of déjà vu in my mind as I pen this letter; I recall addressing Hindu matters in the letter pages of Stabroek News, circa June 2007.
Cut to 2017 and the fundamentals have not changed: the Swami dared to question the attack on Hindus in public schools in Guyana and the floodgates of criticism opened. It is really tragic that Hindus are not more vocal on issues that trample upon their basic right not to be abused.
Vasudhaiva Kutumbaka ‒ the world is one family (Maha Upanishad) ‒ this verse epitomizes the lack of importance that Hindus place on proselytization. Regardless of who we are, what we are, where we come from, we are all one family. This is an enlightened view of the nature of diversity and it does not require uniformity. It is a view that accommodates the vast faiths and traditions of the world. It is worthy of emulation.
Guyana is a secular state. Such a state does not privilege one religion over another. Guyana should not go down the path of blurring the lines between a secular and a religious state. A secular state is capable of accommodating and celebrating all religions. When I attended Zeeburg Secondary School we celebrated nearly all important events in Guyana’s religious calendar, be it Christmas or Diwali, to name but two. At no time during these student organized programmes was any religion denigrated. These were truly unifying celebrations.
Despite its many warts, Guyana is a unique place that can serve as an example for many countries in the world. It is yet to realize its true potential, mired as it is, with a myriad of parochial issues. However, it must be safeguarded until it does realise its true potential. Guyanese should not allow the fundamentalist virus to inflict our mind or body politic. We have much to teach the religious communities of the world.