Opposition Leader, Arnhim Eustace, says he is “bothered” by the poor turnout at the annual National Day of Prayer Rally.
A few hundred persons turned out to the rally at Heritage Square in Kingstown midday Monday.
Eustace, speaking at the rally, noted that the Constitution clearly recognises the importance of God and added that he believes most Vincentians also have a similar belief.
He said that at the rally, persons gather annually to give God praise and thanks for blessings and to invite him to deal with the difficulties “because, I think, inherently we recognise that we cannot do it on our own; God must be involved,” Eustace said.
“In this context, I want to raise an issue that has bothered me from time to time in relation to this ceremony. We have a population of over 100,000 people in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. We also have many festivals, most notable being Carnival. And you can come on these streets and meet thousands and thousands of people celebrating,” Eustace said to applause and “amen”.
“But it has always struck me that this ceremony is too low-keyed. I think we need to spend more time in developing the programmes for this National Day of Prayer to allow for greater participation by members of the public,” Eustace said.
He urged the organisers of the event — both at the level of the Ministry of Ecclesiastical Affairs and the clergy — to “give some more thought to the way this ceremony is organised year after year.
“I really would like to see many, many more people participating. For instance, at this time of the day, a lot of people are at work, they can’t come.
“A lot of people see the ceremony as simply something official and they are not necessarily invited. And I think we ought to change that,” Eustace said, as he urged a review to encourage greater public participation.
“Having maybe 200 persons or thereabout, or 300, may seem OK. But it is not the best we can do for God. … We, like many other countries in the world, are faced with numerous difficulties, numerous trials, confrontations and challenges, … but we can meet the challenges with the help of almighty God,” Eustace said.
Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, speaking at the same ceremony, said he agreed that better arrangements must be made on Day of Prayer.
But he also noted that prayer is voluntary, and added that persons who do not turn out to the rally could listen on radio at their work places and that the nation’s churches are opened.
Gonsalves further suggested that the next Day of Prayer, celebrated on the second Monday in June for the past six years, can be a gospel concert in the evening.
Gonsalves, however, said he believes more people go to church on Saturday and Sunday than masqueraders or spectator at Mardi Gras or who attend Soca Monarch.
The Prime Minister further said he believes about 20,000 persons go to church on the weekend.
“So I am not worried at all about the Christian worship,” Gonsalves said.