Emotionally- charged Inter-faith candlelight service held for abused victims

February 18, 2012 | By | Filed Under News

-woman shares her painful story

By Leon Suseran

Hundreds filled Spready’s Square at Port Mourant on the Corentyne on Wednesday

Amelia Veeren, victim of domestic violence sharing her painful storyevening in one of the first ever Inter-faith candlelight services to show solidarity with victims of sexual abuse.

Hindus, Christians and Muslims from all walks of life, Non- Governmental Organisations, Government leaders and the New Jersey Arya Samaj Humanitarian Mission (NJASHM) all joined in making a loud call for more attention to be placed on dealing with the “cancer” and what many refer to as “the disease” of sexual abuse, especially of young children in Berbice and Guyana as a whole.
The evening began with several keynote speakers who spoke to the issue of violence in every form and shared what needs to be done to aggressively tackle the societal breakdown that exists.
Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Honorable Jennifer Webster, emphasised the brutal violence being committed on persons of both genders. “No one can be immune to the daily horrific stories in the media; they invade our homes and lives with an increasing regularity. Victims are crying for help. The family; the very fabric of society is silently begging for our help as they are ripped asunder by one violent act after another”.
Fathers, she said, perform violent acts on mothers and children, mothers abuse children and friends react in violence at the ‘slightest provocation and the list continues”. Minister noted that parents are the greatest teachers and that “men learn to abuse their wives if they have grown up watching their fathers do so”. “Victims of violence feel hopeless because of the perceived notion that there is no way out, no help and lack of care from those around them”, she noted.
Professor Daizal R. Samad of the University of Guyana urged the gathering to join hands and form a protective barrier if the evil is to be combated. He pinpointed the Guyana Police Force, religious organisations, social groups, the legal community and private sector for having very important roles to play to fight sexual abuse and violence. “I cannot tell you the number of times that wives have come to see me with complaints that they were beaten by their husbands; in two cases, parents have come and shown me bloody clothes from children as young as five years old”, he stated. He added that his social work students at the Berbice Campus are working in hands-on ways to examine these social diseases. He urged the gathering to carefully ponder upon where these acts are being committed the most, what the levels of prosecution are and why are these acts happening, so that information collected can assist with the fight of abuses that are happening.
He chronicled the breakdown of society. “…we have lost control of ourselves. We drink, behave in shameful ways, swear in the loudest voices, and become violent for little or no reason”, he stated. He added his disgust with a popular newspaper columnist who penned an

A section of the gathering during the candle light service article titled ‘Corruption is worse than rape!’ and called the statement a “dreadful, callous and irresponsible” one. “Tell that to our children– males and females– that have been raped!” He referred to the perpetrators of rape and sexual abuse as people “without conscience, without decency, without goodness”. “There are men that I have met who would insist that it is the right of a man to beat his partner. I have warned them not to speak such things in my company…I try to keep as far away from these kinds of diseased people as I can”.

Then the audience with their candles lit, listened to the painful story of an abused victim, Corentyne teacher, Amelia Veeren, who shared her difficult story with the public and broke down in tears several times during the address. She allegedly endured a painful struggle with her husband but was able to get out of the relationship before things turned for the worst. She received a standing ovation for her bravery that evening.
Also speaking to the audience was the mother of the five- year- old rape victim from East Canje. The mother made her appearance in public for the first time since her daughter was brutally raped under the Canje River Bridge on December 22, 2011. She urged the police to find the rapist and bring him to justice.
Regional Chairman of Region 6, David Armogan stated during his address that somewhere in Guyana “right now, another woman is being abused”. “This new feature of our society …is getting completely out of hand”. Statistics, he said, show that domestic violence “affects women and children of all strata of society and therefore, there must be a total approach to this form of violence”. He noted new and modern legislations have been passed including the Domestic Violence Act and Child Protection Act, all of which have assisted in the fight of sexual abuse. Organisations like Red Thread, The Guyana Association of Women Lawyers, among others, “have been formed to tackle this problem”. “Despite the interventions of new organisations and legislations, the problem goes unabated”.
He called for new approaches to deal with the problem, such as strengthening the family unit and helping them to be grounded in religious beliefs. “We have to be able to look out for our brothers and sisters”, he stated. He urged the gathering, “How many of you sitting here have not seen your neighbour suffering from domestic violence and a child being ill- treated in the home and have said something to the authorities?” He said people need to speak out and report it or else “the problem will continue unabated”.
“We need to get back to some level of morality in our society….because it is through this that decency is built”.  He quoted Mahatma Gandhi by saying  “The brutality of this world is not caused so much by the acts of bad men, but by the silence of good men”, he told the audience. The business community, represented by the Upper Corentyne Chambers of Commerce (UCCCI), lauded the event and said that it was long overdue. “We have, however concluded through our intensive interactions with the Upper Corentyne primary and secondary schools, that the foremost cause of sexual abuse proliferation is due to the breakdown of moral fabric in the home and community levels. A lack of positive role models at home and in the community leaves many youngsters at the mercy of unscrupulous individuals and the pressures created by mass media, a media where sex sells”. Other causes of these crimes, they added, were the incomplete penalty enforcement system, “poverty and a disconcerted effort by stakeholders”.
Other speakers included the CEO of the Berbice Regional Health Authority, St Francis Community Developers and Guyanese Women in Development (GuyWid). The ‘B’ Division Police, including the Commander, was a no- show even though they were invited as important stakeholders in the issue.
After the inter- faith service, participants viewed a movie, “Enough”,  starring Jennifer Lopez, that chronicled the struggle and tale of a young mother who was being brutally abused by her husband.

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