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“Shalom” during election period from Roman Catholic Bishop Francis Alleyne

In the midst of all that is being said and done in the lead up to elections, I share some of my own thoughts.  Let us greet Election Day and beyond with a “Shalom” – the Hebrew word that is most often translated to mean “peace” but from its roots also connotes harmony, right-relationship, well-being, completeness, soundness and success.

A finger on the pulse of the electioneering and campaigning over the past few months, and before that in the National Assembly, suggests that the “shalom” readings are not yet in a viable range.  The pulse is weak.  What seems to be surging through the systems at elevated levels are experiences and memories from the past that intimidate and terrorise and discredit. Performances on-stage and on-camera and in paid advertisements rehash the hurt, pain and suffering that we blame on each other across the political and ethnic divides.  As one person said to me, it is like a driver looking only in the rear view mirror instead of taking in the vista offered through the windshield.  In this regard I restate my belief that reconciliation and trust are vital to an on-going process of building “shalom” in our nation. 

Last November, when parliament was prorogued to forestall a no confidence motion, we, the church, recognised that the nation was venturing into uncharted territory and from a faith perspective, drawing on the language of faith, and the social teachings in our faith tradition, we engaged a number of communities in conversations about national concerns.  These were impressive encounters which made it clear that people have a good grasp of social and national concerns.  Because of their faith they also had a good grasp of human worth and the ways we could be and ought to be in right relationship with one another and the whole of creation.  Christians, and those of other faith traditions, believe in the innate goodness of God’s creation, of which humanity forms an important part.  We believe that all People, regardless of race, ethnicity or otherwise, are created in God’s image.  We believe that fundamental goodness cannot be overturned by sin, however endemic that sin may be.  It falls to us now to embody this belief and with resolve to work together to shape and nurture the way forward.  I pray that participation in the polls on May 11th will not only indicate the people’s choice but also mark the renewal of commitment on the part of every citizen to be engaged in nation building.

Recently, while interfacing with a group of young people, it struck me that very few in the group could be clearly defined by one ethnicity.  There before me was a fusion and a testimony from this young generation that the categories, which historically and at present generate fear and mistrust, no longer apply or even exist.  Our young people are effectively removing destructive words and concepts from our vocabulary and stand before us as a group of Guyanese poised to blossom.  As we go to the polls let us ensure the protection of what our young people are showing us.

As people of faith it is our minimum duty to participate in the elections and go to the polls.  Let us, with the casting of our vote, go further, beyond the minimum, where our faith will inevitably spur us, to nurture healing, right relationship, trust and collaboration.