As I join with the national community in commemorating Spiritual Shouter Baptist Liberation Day, I am reminded of the important lessons we can all learn from this community – of the power of faith, unity and determination in overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds. We honour the fighting spirit in the face of organized state oppression.
We must take the time to remember those who have fought hard and won a long, difficult and oppressive struggle for liberation. The journey was arduous but they persisted.
Our beloved Trinidad and Tobago is a nation built on the struggles, the strength of spirit and the will of its people. The repeal of the Shouters Prohibition Ordinance in 1951 was a significant and defining moment not only for followers of this faith, but for our country. It signified the end to an unjust edict which deprived people of the ability to practice their religion freely, and finally, Spiritual Shouter Baptists were free to “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands” (Psalm 100:1 of the King James Bible). It was Trinidad and Tobago saying to the world that indeed everyone will find an equal place here.
The contributions of the Spiritual Shouter Baptist community to our country’s rich heritage, our diverse culture and to national development are deserving of celebration, and it was in recognition of their contributions that on 26 January 1996, Spiritual Shouter Baptist Liberation was declared a public holiday of national significance by the then UNC Government led by Basdeo Panday.
The People’s Partnership Administration which I led continued to honour the community and delivered on a promise to provide State supported education and teaching facilities for children and young people of the faith.
I admire and applaud the indomitable spirit of this community to persist and prosper. Today, as we face trying times and challenges in our nation, we can look to Spiritual Shouter Baptists for inspiration, and as they did, seek to keep hope and faith alive.
Let us remember the kind of resilience upon which our citizenship is built, which define us as a people. I call upon all citizens to stand together and work together, and, united in purpose, we can make a difference in our country.
We must all keep in our hearts and minds at all times the mission to be our best, do our best and come together to build our nation into a stronger, more united one. Together we can create a Trinidad and Tobago in which we can all be proud.
On behalf of the United National Congress, myself and my family, I extend to all practitioners of the Spiritual Shouter Baptist faith and indeed the nation as a whole, a blessed Liberation Day.
Kamla Persad-Bissessar, SC, MP
Leader of the Opposition