Religion and Politics

Religion and Politics

Through much of Guyana's history, the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches helped maintain the social and political status quo. The Roman Catholic Church and its newspaper, the Catholic Standard, were vocal opponents of the ideology of the People's Progressive Party (PPP) in the 1950s and became closely associated with the conservative United Force. However, in the late 1960s the Roman Catholic Church changed its stance toward social and political issues, and the Catholic Standard became more critical of the government. Subsequently, the government forced a number of foreign Roman Catholic priests to leave the country. By the mid-1970s, the Anglicans and other Protestant denominations had joined in the criticisms of government abuse. The Anglican and Roman Catholic churches also worked together, unsuccessfully, to oppose the government's assumption of control of church schools in 1976.

The Guyana Council of Churches was the umbrella organization for sixteen major Christian denominations. Historically, it had been dominated by the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches. The Guyana Council of Churches became an increasingly vocal critic of the government in the 1970s and 1980s, focusing international attention on its shortcomings. The conflict between the government and the Guyana Council of Churches came to a head in 1985, when members of the PNC-influenced House of Israel physically prevented the council from holding its annual meeting. Later that year, police searched the homes of the major Christian church leaders. The PNC maintained the support of a number of smaller Christian denominations, however.

In contrast to the most prominent Christian clergy, who maintained connections with international denominations, Hindu and Muslim leaders depended on strictly local support. For them, resistance to political pressure was more difficult. In the 1970s, the PNC succeeded in splitting many of the important Hindu and Muslim organizations into pro-PNC and pro-PPP factions.

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