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Shouters’ tenacity hailed
The Emancipation Support Committee has congratulated the Spiritual Baptist/Shouter community of T&T and joins with them in celebrating the 60th anniversary of the repeal of the Spiritual Baptist Prohibition Ordinance.
Following is the committee’s statement:
Members of the Emancipation Support Committee recall, with pride, the resistance displayed by the Spiritual Baptist Shouter community over the period 1917 to 1951 when the Colonial Government with its white supremacist highhandedness proclaimed that the worship of this group was merely a disturbance of the peace. We note that the denial of the right of an African group to worship God in their own way began long before 1917 when all Africans were unable to openly proclaim the existence of their God, or utilise any part of their culture in worship.
Upon emergence from that long, dark period of enslavement in 1838 when we were not even considered human beings by those Europeans, we were saddled with the 1869 ordinance and the 1883 prohibition.
While the 1869 ordinance labelled all African religions as “obeah”, with negative connotations,and flogged and imprisoned adherents and adepts, the 1883 prohibition banned the playing of the drums and other musical instruments. In 1917 the Spiritual Baptist Shouter religion was outlawed.
In the face of growing difficulties by the Spiritual Baptist Shouter community, their members found the hills and the forests to worship in their own way and did it over and over for more than 30 years, in spite of the continuous raids and determined efforts by an often brutal colonial police force to stamp it out or the public ridicule to which it was subjected. The Spiritual Baptist Shouter community showed tenacity in holding fast to their religion and exhibited a faith that their God would deliver them. Like other groups of Africans struggling for freedom and dignity in an openly racist colonial state, actions were pursued on all fronts, in the courts, on the streets and in the Legislative Council; by members of the Spiritual Baptist Shouter community.
After the long night of official suppression, freedom came in 1951 as the abominable Spiritual Baptist Prohibition Ordinance was repealed. As the community celebrates on the national holiday, granted in 1996, the Emancipation Support Committee congratulates our brothers and sisters of the Spiritual Baptist Shouter faith for their victorious struggle, extends best wishes on the 60th anniversary of their liberation, and looks forward to their continuing advancement as a force for positive development in our society.
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