The Spiritual Baptist community overcame persecution during colonial times because of their faith which continues to guide them today, Laventille West MP Fitzgerald Hinds said on Friday
“This spiritually based faith which is being displayed, is what has kept the baptist people alive; and not just their religion, but the people themselves,” Hinds said after thanksgiving service at City Hall, Port of Spain as Baptists celebrated the holiday marking the repeal of a 1917 ordinance that prohibited the practice of their religion.
“There are some countries where people would not plant a tree because they do not have faith that they would be around to benefit from their fruit. There are people who are fleeing their countries all over the world because they do not have faith in their country. So faith in the future and better things in the future, is very important to the overall struggle,” Hinds told Sunday Newsday after the service.
In his address to the congregation, Hinds said Baptists must persevere in their beliefs if the country is to achieve equal recognition and treatment for all faiths coming out of slavery and indentureship.
“But the struggle is not over,” Hinds said, “the struggle of the Baptist faith is part of the larger African struggle to ensure that, as the Constitution of TT provides, every single person of every single religious persuasion must be free to worship in TT. And if we could still feel and respect ourselves after centuries of oppression, denial and humiliation, (also) believe that the ones who enslaved us, once they have not had a change of heart, still feel like slave masters, and if they get a chance to re-enslave us they probably will,”
On November 16, 1917, legislation to enact a ban on the Shouter Baptist faith was passed.
This ban restricted citizens from practising their faith in the open. However on March 30, 1951 the ban was repealed.
On January 26, 1996 the government, under the Basdeo Panday-led United National Congress announced March 30 as Shouter Baptist Liberation Day.
Also voicing the view that the struggle continues was Minister of Labour and Small Enterprise Development Jennifer Baptiste-Primus, who in a release said Baptists are examples of courage.
“To the leaders of the Spiritual/Shouter Baptist faith, who continues to exemplify the struggle by being living examples of your members, we encourage you to continue your invaluable contribution in defining your space within TT,” Baptiste-Primus said.
The Labour Minister also called for reflection on the significance of the Easter, which coincided with the Baptist celebration.
“We must not fail to call to mind the true, deep and meaningful significance of this awesome era in history and the positive transformational impact which it stamped on the advancement of world civilisation,” she said.