Prime Minister’s Spiritual Shouter Baptist Liberation Message – 2023
Message to the nation from Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago Dr The Honourable Keith Rowley on the occasion of Spiritual Shouter Baptist Liberation Day 2023.
Today, on behalf of the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, members of my family and myself as Prime Minister, I extend heartfelt and sincere Greetings to the Spiritual Shouter Baptist community on its Liberation Day 2023.
Every year as I extend greetings to this community, I am overcome by what is for me, an enduring emotion.
I have come to understand that every time I grappled with the history and painful experiences of the early Baptist faithful, I experience an inner awakening, feelings of an infusion, and an awakening of consciousness.
Today, its members stand proudly as equal citizens of the Republic, with their dignity established. Thanks, to this unique, democratic country we all have built — and despite our many shortcomings, we continue to build and hold positive outlooks for better days.
This was not always so for the early Baptist worshippers. On slave plantations, African people were considered sub-human, mere chattel, or tools and objects — “a brother to the ox,” as one reference said, or “animals cut off from light, music, and dreams”.
Later, in the early post-Emancipation period, and into the early 20th century, the Spiritual Shouter Baptist faithful were deemed among the least of African people.
They were profiled, in various ways, as “noisy,” “hideous”, and “uncivilised”.
Then came the laws to prevent them from worshipping the Almighty in the ways that they saw him. But their beliefs proved stronger; it went beyond the oppressive, colonial laws, for they trusted in the Lord. Psalm 33 says:
“We are waiting on Yahweh;
He is our help and our shield,
For Him in our heart rejoices,
In his Holy name we trust
Yahweh, let your faithful love rest on us,
as our hope has rested in you.”
They felt assured, according to John that “God is light, and, and there is no darkness in him at all” and that in spite of the harassment laws, and the pressure from the established churches that “we live in light, as He is in light.”
In their pain and isolation, they, however, may have felt a warm connection that stretched from their West African roots, to other forms and examples of discrimination against the Africans.
They, however, remained undaunted, seeing their religion as a living process, within the total society that is Trinidad and Tobago.
For the faithful, it has been a long road from the imposition of the Shouter Prohibition Ordinance 1917 to its eventual repeal on March 30, 1951.
From our vantage point today, we can say that in every experience there are negatives, but for the Spiritual Shouter Baptists, there were heavy loads of daily negatives that their faithful carried — the hostile laws, disadvantages in the education system, economic exclusion, the cultural contempt, the questions of class and colour.
However, arising out of their experience, the recently departed, Professor Gordon Rohlehr saw a “Revolution in the perception of the Self”, which today is part of the ongoing process of African self-affirmation, and self-assertion, and this process can be identified in our rejection of the oppressive plantation system.
Today, that lineage is evident in the patterns of our folktales, proverbs, rhetoric, our performances, our literature, our dress, our foods, our flair or Trinbago “style”.
The Spiritual Shouter Baptists have shown us that, out of their experience, religion is a living, dynamic and absolutely necessary process — more so, now than ever before — within our larger Trinidad and Tobago society.
Today, we will celebrate with the Spiritual Shouter Baptist in their festivities at the newly-built Administrative Complex in Couva, thanks to the contributions from the Government’s Ecclesiastical Fund. This complex is the first step, and hopefully, within the near future their celebrations will be conducted within the walls of the edifice of the Spiritual Shouter Baptist Cathedral. We trust that this accomplishment is a grand milestone on the happy road to unity and brotherhood.
Go forward, Brothers and Sisters, with the words of John “I am the vine; you are the branches”, and “as the Father has loved me, I have loved you, you also should love one another.”