Ian K Ramdhanie, MSc,
Today we celebrate one of the most important holidays we have in T&T: Shouter Baptist Day. This is the day all of us—regardless of our religion—celebrate the freedom to worship as we please. That is no small feat in this world torn apart by religious strife. Shouter Baptist Day allows us to transcend religion and celebrate the sense of spirituality that binds us together. It reminds us of our historical struggle for independence. Shouter Baptist Day is a holiday that commemorates faith in more ways that one.
With determination and dignity, the Shouter Baptists persevered in spite of the Shouter Prohibition Ordinance passed by the colonial government in 1917. That act of discrimination made the lively Shouter Baptist or Spiritual Baptist way of worshiping against the law. Shouter Baptists never gave up the fight. Worshipping in secret, risking arrest, ridicule and persecution, they refused to accept prejudice in the guise of an unfair law.
Their battle against the authorities symbolised the nation’s battle for freedom. It was a long, harsh road, but the Baptists prevailed. The Shouter Baptist Ordinance was officially repealed on March 30, 1951. Our culture is richer because of the Shouter Baptists. Writer Earl Lovelace documented their religious struggle in his novel The Wine of Astonishment. It is arguably his best novel.