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Opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar

The following is Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s Spiritual Baptist Liberation Day greeting:

I wish our esteemed brothers and sisters of the Spiritual Shouter Baptist Community a joyful and safe Spiritual Shouter Baptist Liberation Day 2020.

For many years I have joined this community in communal celebration. This year, as a result of the COVID 19 threat, like many of my brothers and sisters in the Baptist faith I too will be engaging in prayer for my community, country and the world from the confines of my home.

I believe that together, you and I, and our Lord, will persevere and live to see the sun rise again over our beloved country. What our country needs now are our prayers.

Spiritual Shouter Baptist Liberation Day is a national event where we celebrate the courage of a people who fought not only to practice what they believed in, but who united and stood up for their way of life. Today, we all stand proud of the accomplishments of our Spiritual Shouter Baptist brothers and sisters who for 34 years after the enactment of the Shouters Prohibition Ordinance in 1917 valiantly kept their beliefs alive despite major oppression until it was finally repealed in 1951.

Sixty-nine years since the repeal of this Ordinance, the people of our twin-island Republic have been truly blessed with the beautiful, enriching contributions by the Spiritual Shouter Baptist Community towards our national culture, music, artwork, cuisine and belief system. As a result, on this special day, we should not only celebrate the accomplishments of this community but thank them for their contributions, as without them, we would not have developed into the nation we are today.

Their courage should continue to inspire us as a nation. It was in recognition of their contributions that on 26 January 1996, Spiritual Shouter Baptist Liberation was declared a public holiday by the then UNC Government led by Basdeo Panday.

The Government I led continued to honour the community and delivered on a promise to build the first Spiritual Baptist school – the St Barbara’s Spiritual Baptist Primary school and an Early Childhood Care and Education Centre.

The capacity of the Baptist community to persist and prosper in times of significant adversity is an example for Trinidad and Tobago as a whole. 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.

Today, we are facing one of the most vulnerable and uncertain times with the COVID-19 crisis. Let us replicate the courage our Spiritual Baptist community demonstrated between 1917 to 1951 and beyond, to fight to ensure the liberation of our nation from hardship, suffering and ill effects which this virus brings with it.

Like our Spiritual Shouter Baptist brothers and sisters, we must unite in purpose to ensure the way of life that defines us and the future which we desire will not slip away from our grasp but instead become a reality through unity, social responsibility and being our brother’s keeper.

Further, while we fight this global pandemic, our problems as a people did not begin with COVID-19. We must remember that in the past years, inequality, high unemployment, crime, absence of opportunity for youth and institutional break down have oppressed the full liberation of our people from realising their true potential.

Therefore, our fight as a nation must be to unite in purpose to achieve true national liberation where all can enjoy the fruits of their labour, manifest peacefully in their beliefs and achieve their goals.

I have no doubt that with the strength, determination and indomitable spirit of our people that we will overcome this crisis, and emerge stronger and more united.

May God bless our nation on this special day.

Kamla Persad-Bissessar,SC, MP

Leader of the Opposition