Opening Remarks by Jairo J. Rodrigues
Interfaith Iftar to commemorate SASOD's 14th Anniversary
June 09, 2017
June 09, 2017
Ladies and gentlemen, Asalamu Alaikum.
A special welcome to His Excellency, US Ambassador Perry Holloway, our religious leaders, brothers and sisters, good evening all and Ramadan Mubarak.
My name is Jairo Rodrigues, I am the Social Change coordinator for the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination and I will be your master of ceremony for this evening.
I would like to thank you all for coming tonight, for commemorating SASOD’s 14th anniversary and for showing your support in fostering social cohesion in our society.
Now a lot of people would ask, why an IFTAR? And what even is an IFTAR?
You see, an IFTAR is the meal a Muslim would eat when breaking a fast. It comes with a very intimate, a very solemn and personal experience where at the end of the day of fasting a Muslim would quietly speak to God as they conclude a personal commitment to their creator.
Though an IFTAR is very personal, a Muslim will choose to observe it with their Family, their jamaat - that is their community, and those they hold dearly around them. Brothers and Sisters, this is why we are here today.
Now why have an IFTAR with other religions, and with the LGBT community?
On the news today we will see many aspects in politics and in global affairs of ‘us’ against ‘them’, of division, and xenophobia, but that is not who we are as Guyanese and we should not follow suite.
We have long recognised that we are a plural society, of many ethnic groups, cultures and religions that we combine into one identity, to be a 'Guyanese'. Our many stories become our one history and what we do as a nation today makes our heritage.
We are one people, as a nation, working towards something…what is that something? What is our destiny?
Well, as a nation, that is for us to find out together.
Though we may have differences, sometimes conflicting beliefs, we must recognise the need to build bridges, the need to understand each other, the need to respect differences and work towards achieving the common good; the good of our society, the good of our nation, the good of who we are as human beings.
We are a very conservative society, and many religious folks often forget that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons are too, religious. And though they may find comfort in the love of their creator they may find hatred from their own religious communities who would cherry pick lines and use as stones, often times forgetting that they too have glass houses.
I am a muslim, and I am gay. I was raised in a very religious home so I know the personal battles some of us may go through. I know what it is like for our sexualities to conflict with our religious beliefs and drive us into questioning the nature of our sexuality, drive us into feeling sub-human or degraded and into madness thinking we are demons.
But we are not. We are creations who are simply different. Some may accept that this is their sin to live with, others would not consider it a sin at all. What we all long for is to feel comforted and accepted by our religions – not segregated. We all have flaws, and I am careful with these words to not call differing sexualities and gender identities as sins or flaws, but if something is just different or misunderstood, it does not mean it is wrong and should be chastised.
As it relates to how we treat each other and how we live together, we must strive for a common goal of freedom, respect and dignity for all, despite ethnicity, class and background, sexuality, religion, age, gender identity – no exceptions.
And that is why we have an inter-faith IFTAR and why we all will break bread together, so to speak. Because we understand the need to come together despite differences, to celebrate with each other, to understand, and strive to live together with dignity and respect.
With this Interfaith Iftar we are proving that as Guyanese, Diversity is truly our strength.