RADHICA DE SILVA
Planned street parades, church services and rallies to commemorate Spiritual Shouter Baptist Liberation Day have all been cancelled this year because of COVID-19.
But Baptists across the country are now hoping to get free media air time to commemorate the day.
During an interview with Guardian Media, Baptist elder Episkopus Archbishop Barbara Gray-Burke said she was hoping that the media will allow her the opportunity to pray for T&T.
“This is important at a time when the country and the world is facing the worst pandemic in recent history,” Burke said.
She explained that cancelling all celebrations across the country was mandatory if T&T had to fight off the spread of COVID-19.
Burke said Baptists have faced persecution since 1917 and it was a struggle to finally gain recognition and rights as one of T&T’s indigenous religions.
However, she said it was important to uphold the government’s restrictions.
“Yes our faith is important but we need to obey the law. If we cannot obey the law, how can we obey God?” she said.
She said the media should use airtime to commemorate the day.
“We can send CDs with events that the Baptist community held in the past. We are also hoping to get on to any station for a show so that we can pray for the nation,” Burke said.
Saying that government has been doing a good job to keep down the spread, Burke said, “When I watch so many thousands affected and so many dead. I watched China, the United States and Iran and Italy. They are all in a bad state and we are still doing good. We had no deaths. I think God is watching over us but we have to be responsible and self-quarantine.”
She said people have started taking COVID-19 serious.
“It is going on in the right way. I believe that by June or July we will be registering no deaths. We have to keep it so and the public needs to cooperate,” she added.
Burke said she felt sorry for media personality Ian Alleyne who confessed to testing positive for COVID-19.
“Maybe he didn’t know he had it and he mingled. Poor man. I would pray for him. I heard he was crying but God will spare his life. We will remember him in prayer. All I want is for us as citizens to cooperate and let us get rid of this virus. We could make it if we try. I have faith in my Trinidad and Tobago,” Burke added.
Meanwhile, Bishop Shango Kemi from the St Michael’s Shrine in Tabaquite said the 60 members of her church will also stay away from celebrations this year.
“We decided that we are not going to do anything. It is too risky. The government said no congregating and we have to abide by this policy,” Kemi said.
She added that while some churches have flouted the rules, the Baptist community would abide by the restrictions.
“Initially I thought maybe a few of my spiritual children, no more than 10 could come by me for some prayers but now I decided not to go that way. We will not have anybody in our homes. I am planning to maintain the laws and uphold what they saying because when you look at the rate of infection it is very alarming,” Kemi added.
The Shouter Baptiste religion developed among the people of African descent during the Nineteenth Century. From 1917 to 1951 the Spiritual and Shouter Baptist faith was banned in Trinidad by the colonial government of the day. The legislation to enact this ban was called the Shouters Prohibition Ordinance and it was passed on 16 November 1917. However, this was later repealed and under the Basdeo Panday government, the Baptiste community received a public holiday as well as land grants to build schools.