AS Trinidad and Tobago continues to battle the deadly Covid-19 virus, with active cases crossing the 8,000 mark yesterday, President Paula-Mae Weekes sent a stern message to the nation.
“Our present dire situation does not allow for selfish individualism, political agenda, vulgar profiteering, wild conspiracy theories, spreading disinformation or our practised laissez-faire attitude,” said the President.
Speaking at the National Day of Prayer, held at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann’s, Weekes recalled that when Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced last week that T&T would be under a state of emergency, she didn’t shed a tear but emitted a deep sigh of resignation.
“It was clear to me, as to many, that we had been inching our way steadily there and I asked myself rhetorically, ‘why did we have to get to this point?’ Not for the first time, I thought that in large part it might have to do with the somewhat schizophrenic nature of us Trinbagonians,” she said.
“We exhibit the disorder in its classic dictionary definition - ‘a breakdown between thought, emotion, and behaviour, leading to faulty perception, inappropriate actions and feelings, withdrawal from reality and personal relationships into fantasy and delusion, and a sense of mental fragmentation’ - in other words, ‘a mentality or approach characterised by inconsistent or contradictory elements’.”
She stressed that despite the different ideologies of citizens, the varied conditions in which they live, the divergent points of view, and the mixed ethnicities, “we are first and foremost Trinbagonians, members of one body”.
“Whether we are of Indian or African descent, belong to the one per cent or the 99 per cent; supporters of UNC (United National Congress), PNM (People’s National Movement) or NOTA (none of the above); whether Trinidadian or Tobagonian; faithful or faithless, Covid-19 doesn’t discriminate and neither can we,” Weekes emphasised.
“We all belong to the one body, Trinidad and Tobago, and the organism being fit and healthy requires all parts to function optimally. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it, none is immune,” she said.
She said if Trinidad and Tobago is to repel the virus, citizens not only need to be their brother’s keeper but “our granny’s, our neighbour’s, our colleagues’, our grocer’s, our taxi-drivers’ and fellow passengers’, keepers of our valiant, long-suffering and exhausted healthcare workers, even the keepers of absolute strangers”.
Weekes said she remembered being young and restless, so understood that many people might feel like life was leaving them behind and that the time for them to be wild and free was wasting away.
“But trust me, there will be time enough in the future. As Ecclesiastes tells us, ‘For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven’. There will be a time to laugh, dance and embrace, but for now, for the common good, we must refrain,” she urged.
Prayers for healing
During yesterday’s service, prayers rose from religious leaders for peace to be still in this “seeming storm”, for the ill to be healed, for vaccine acceptance, unity among leaders, for comfort for those who lost loved ones to the virus, and for strength for all frontline healthcare workers.
The Prime Minister declared May 23 as a National Day of Prayer during a Covid-19 news conference on May 14, one day after T&T recorded 21 Covid-19 deaths, the highest number since the start of the pandemic in March 2020.
The formal part of the National Day of Prayer was held at the Diplomatic Centre from 10 a.m. and lasted for about two and a half hours.
The event was broadcast live on television and on social media.
Reading an excerpt from the Constitution, the Prime Minister, in his opening remarks, noted that Trinidad and Tobago was “founded on the principles that acknowledge the supremacy of God and faith in fundamental human rights and freedoms…”.
“That’s the foundation of today’s exercise - a nation that acknowledges God at its inception,” Rowley said.
Be of common mind
to fight scourge
Delivering the sermon at the event was Anglican Bishop Claude Berkeley, who commended the Prime Minister for calling the National Day of Prayer, as T&T needed hope at this time.
“There are many persons who are very afraid. They are frightened to their wit’s end because they do not know how they might turn out. We need the empowering grace of the spirit of God to move us to a new place of obedience, patriotism and brotherly/sisterly love,” Berkeley said.
He called on the nation to commit to a more comprehensive, widespread and sustained communication process with a view to countering misunderstanding, myths, falsehoods and mischief.
“And can we remount a new and consolidated, unified assault on Covid-19 in this new phase, all stakeholders together, working to save sweet T&T? The spirit of God today calls out to our nation to be of common mind, to be of a common purpose, in fighting off this scourge among us,” Berkeley implored.
“I appeal to you brothers and sisters, in the name of our most high God, to respond urgently and positively and may God bless our nation,” he said.
The National Day of Prayer brought together leaders from various religious denominations.
The youngest participant was seven-year-old Hadiyah Hasnain, who, via a recorded video, read several verses from the Holy Qur’an.
Religious leaders who prayed for the nation were:
• Apostle Emanuel Vivian Duncan of the Divine Worship Centre
• Roman Catholic Archbishop Jason Gordon
• Rev TekleMariam Greene, Ecumenical Ambassador of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church
• Martin Bernard, Spiritual Leader of the Unity Centre for Holistic Living
• Pundit Dr Rampersad Parasram, Spiritual Leader and Dharmacharya of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha
• Imam Atif Sulaimani of the San Fernando Jama Masjid
• Archbishop Wayne Jacobs of the National Congress of Incorporated Spiritual Baptist Organisations of T&T
• Dr. Kern Tobias, president of the Caribbean Union Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists
• Baba Neal Rawlins, secretary of the Council of Orisha Elders
• Rev Duane Samm, superintendent Minister of the Methodist Church
• Sr Jasmine Bisnath, coordinator of the Raja Yoga Centre
• Rev Joy Abdul-Mohan, moderator of the Presbyterian Church of T&T