President David Granger has charged the Ministry of Communities to encourage the 10 Regional Administrations to work with the Hindu community and other social organisations to host important cultural and religious observances such as Diwali. This, he said, has the potential to break down barriers in communities and promote greater social cohesion and a better understanding and appreciation of various festivals. The Head of State made these remarks, lasy evening, at the Ministry of Social Cohesion’s Diwali celebrations, which was held on Main Street in front of the Department of Culture, Youth and Sport.
“I pray that the significance of this festival will not be lost and the significance of the light of the diya (lamp) would not be lost on the Guyanese community and that it could show us the path so that we can be guided to a more tolerant, a more cohesive society just as Ram and Sita were guided by the light of the diya to the Kingdom of Ayodhya in the North (India),” he said.
The President pointed out that even though Diwali was brought to Guyana by the Hindus some 179 years ago, it was only in the last 50 years that it became a national holiday. This, he said, is one of the most integrative features of the country’s post-Independence experience whereby people learn to accept each other’s ‘otherness’ without trying to smother one another with a particular religion.
“This is a festival of great symbolism and the diya perhaps is most significant because it brings light. By the light of the diya we banish darkness… It brings the message of good over evil, the message of hope over despair, the message of knowledge over ignorance, the message of prosperity over poverty and most of all for us in Guyana, the message of togetherness over ‘separateness’,” the Head of State said.
Meanwhile, Minister of Social Cohesion, Dr. George Norton said that he is happy that a wide cross-section of Guyanese united to celebrate this important festival, not just Hindus. “Religious festivals such as these not only help us to preserve our cultural heritage, but are also vehicles for fostering social cohesion in our multi-ethnic, multi-cultural society. Diwali presents the opportunity for all Guyanese to commit to working together with a greater understanding of each other so that we can build a Guyana which is recognised worldwide as unified country,” he said.