AS one of the triumphant stories in the creation of modern Trinidad and Tobago, the Shouter Baptist story should be known by every child in this country.
Where families and communities may fail, the Ministry of Education, supported by the Ministry of Culture, has the wonderful opportunity through the national network of schools to ensure that no child comes to adulthood without knowing what it took for the Shouter Baptist community to enjoy the right to religious freedom in this country.
The more we know and understand about one another’s ways of life is the more enriched we will all be in this gem of a truly multi-cultural society.
We commemorate today, the 25th anniversary of the public holiday declared by the Basdeo Panday administration in 1996 to commemorate the repeal in 1951 of the Shouter Prohibition Ordinance. This ended the 34-year ban on the religious practices of the Spiritual and Shouter Baptist faith.
Perhaps here it is important to remind readers of the road travelled by the members of this faith since then.
Earl Lovelace’s The Wine of Astonishment published in 1982 is a novel capturing the enduring spirit of the members of a local community, through adherence to the faith.
It was turned into a powerful theatrical production by members of the Malick Folk Performing Company.
Joy Comes in the Morning is another book chronicling the struggle for the repeal of the ordinance which had outlawed the ways of worship by adherents of this faith.
They are both worth the time and effort it would take for anyone interested in this aspect of our country’s social and religious history.
Above and beyond this, however, such an occasion as this provides opportunity for a reminder to the Ministry of Education.
Such developments in our history ought to find pride of place in the curriculum of our schools, especially at the secondary level.
They represent social and religious history that are among those aspects of our march to the present which remain lamented for their absence in our public education system.
It cannot be stressed too powerfully nor too often the extent to which we continue to short-change ourselves with the neglect of such significant milestones in our journey to the present.
As with the multiplicity of activities which have had to be either curtailed and made to measure in accordance with the prevailing Covid-19 restrictions, this year’s observances are being marked by “virtual” events in different parts of the country.
Spiritual elder Ray Brathwaite has told us of his observation that an “influx of young people” has been attracted to the faith.
The various branches of the local community ought to be pleased with such a development.
This comes as “blessed assurance” that this religious movement lifts up its confidence in preparation for the journeys ahead.
There is news also that an event is planned for April 29, with inmates at the Golden Grove prison in Arouca having embraced a challenge as “service providers”.
It speaks deeply to the community’s leadership role in seeking to address its responsibility in meeting the needs of the marginalised and the ostracised.
For these and other related reasons, therefore, we wish a Happy Spiritual Shouter Baptist Liberation Day to all.