Ramadan 2007 / 1428 : Day 17 for September 29
Guyana is an American Indian word meaning “Land of Many Waters.” The country is characterised by its enormous rain forests and rivers. The table mountains found in the interior regions inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1912 novel “The Lost World” which was a type of “Jurassic Park” adventure story from 100 years ago.
Most of Guyana’s 767,000 people live along the Atlantic coast. South Asians (Indians, Pakistanis and Afghans) make up the majority of Muslims in Guyana (more than 75,000 people). Like the Africans who came as slaves most of Guyana’s ethnic groups were labourers brought into the country to work on sugar and cotton plantations with the exception of the Amerindians. South Asians from largely Hindu and Muslim backgrounds make up 51% of the population. “Whites” and Chinese, make up less than 2% percent of the population. Over 500,000 Guyanese have emigrated to other countries including the United States, Canada, England, Suriname and Trinidad.
Mass suicide in Jonestown
In 1978 the mass suicide and murder of 900 American cult members attracted world attention to Guyana. Until then, relatively few people had heard of Guyana. Music in Guyana follows the lead of other Caribbean countries and India. Radio stations play the latest reggae, dance-hall, soca and chutney music, as well as Indian Bollywood influences of bhangra and other Hindi music. Local television stations air American, British and Indian broadcasts.
The first Muslims to Guyana were probably Fulanis from Africa. While Guyana’s Muslim community is made up primarily of South Asians there is a growing Afro-Guyanese minority. Most are Sunni Muslims attending over 125 mosques. Former president Hamilton Green was reportedly a Muslim convert. Guyana officially joined the Organisation of Islamic Conference (CIO) in 1998 (see its local Guyanese web site at: http://www.ciog.org.gy). The CIOG is involved alms (zakat) distribution and other social welfare programs including help for widows. Guyanese Muslims are split into traditionalist and reformist camps which have been in ideological conflict for decades.
Guyanese Muslims pay close attention to the issues affecting Muslims abroad such as the conflicts in Palestine, Kashmir, Iraq, Afghanistan and so on. Local organisations often host prominent Muslim scholars from South Asia and the Arab world as a means of encouraging solidarity and identification with the global “ummah” (the worldwide Muslim community).
Points for prayer:
* Pray God’s peace and His love can be proclaimed effectively to all the different ethnic groups. South Asians are often pitted against Guyanese of African origin.
* Pray that positive Christian music and TV broadcasts can be aired and that the Muslim youth will be influenced for good by it.
* There are a number of Bible colleges in Guyana. Pray for the training of godly people of faith who can also reach Muslims. Some Muslims have come to faith.
* Serious crime is a growing problem. Pray that God’s principles can be taught to young people and that the youth will be shielded from drugs and gangs.
Background on Guyana (World Factbook)
Originally a Dutch colony in the 17th century, by 1815 Guyana had become a British possession. The abolition of slavery led to black settlement of urban areas and the importation of indentured servants from India to work the sugar plantations. This ethnocultural divide has persisted and has led to turbulent politics. Guyana achieved independence from the UK in 1966, and since then it has been ruled mostly by socialist-oriented governments.