On what basis and who decided the ministry’s “true religion?”
In its statement on the question of the prayer recited on the occasion of the declaration of the 2020 CXC results (SN 10/21/2021), Ministry of Education admits that its intention and policy regarding prayers are at times subverted. This surprises no one. What is surprising is the insistence that the prayer is, “a universal one,” the very “same one,” recited at the sittings of the National
Assembly. This is a blatant untruth. Two significant changes, inclusion of “heavenly father,” and “amen” the signature ending of Christian prayers, which are not the National Assembly so-called universal version, were sneaked in. Clearly, not the “same one” used in the assembly. Why those responsible for perpetrating this mischief have chosen to ignore the changes and repeat the lie is known only to themselves, but the changes, especially the first one, “heavenly father,” are critical from a purely Christian theological perspective and simply cannot be swept away by this deception. It is also clear that both the decision to Christianise the prayer and the decision to exclude others were intentional. It is for this reason that we feel that attempts now being made to pass off it as “the universal prayer” doubles the insult to those who have been so ignored and marginalised.
Let it be clear that I do not have any problem with the prayer invoking “heavenly father,” and ending with “amen.” Every person is free to pray in whatever manner she or he chooses. But we are talking about Christian only prayers at an important state function in a supposedly secular society in which there is no official state religion and in which no religion is accorded a privileged status. This scenario perpetuating dominance of one religion reminds one of Orwell. All of us are equal but some of us are more equal. Let us also remember that we are dealing with the department of government that is responsible for education of the nation’s children, an education, one expects, founded on truth and on not causing pain and hurt to others, both of which, unfortunately, have been casualties in this sordid affair. It is now only left for us to ask, in despair, if our department of education would engage in such distortion and manipulation, what hope is there for the future? Finally, on a different note, both the National Assembly prayer and the MOE variant have a curious line that needs to be urgently examined and expunged, that is the line seeking God’s guidance for “the maintenance of true religion” in the assembly version and, “the maintenance and extension of true religion” in the MOE version. What on earth is meant by “true religion?” Who decides this and on what basis?
True religion versus false religion, true God versus a false God, true Prophet versus a false one – these are coded constructions embedded in a religious language of hate and violence. If not the entire prayer, which is nothing but an abomination bereft in heart and soul, lacerating the grandeur and beauty of Tagore’s “Where the mind is without fear,” at least the line on “true religion” must be expunged forthwith.