The scene was idyllic as a range of religion-cultural expressions graced York College Performing Arts Center. Invocations, Quranic recitation, Indian classical dances, Roman Catholic liturgy, Orisa libations, and the tolling bells of Spiritual Baptist dazzled. Coupled with the musical syncretisation of the pan, tassa, tabla, and sitar-the audience was visually and audibly transfixed. It was the first salvo in a series of events to mark T&T's 50th anniversary as an independent state. Hundreds, including members of the Caribbean consular corps, packed the popular theatre for the four-hour long interfaith and thanksgiving service that also featured addresses by the Diaspora's religious figures on the theme, Faith in a Modern World.
Consul General Rudrawtee Nan Ramgoolam, who received a proclamation on behalf of citizens of T&T by the deputy Brooklyn Borough president, used the occasion to establish the Trinidad and Tobago Interfaith Council in New York (TTIFCNY), to be chaired by T&T Guardian correspondent Dr Glenville Ashby. Ramgoolam, who took office in September last year, emphasised the defining role that religion has played in civic awareness and development. "Faith-based programmes succeed where others have failed, as faith can be a tremendous motivating force, while religion motivate people toward public good." She reiterated her government's support for faith based organisations, and proposed initiatives to strengthen the faith of the Diaspora. "How can you be productive citizens in your adopted homeland, while retaining your identity? We can look to our homeland for familial and patrimonial linkages. There are tremendous opportunities for exchange of knowledge, skills, and business opportunities with interested groups in Trinidad and Tobago. Tobago is also the perfect place to hold religious retreats and conferences," she noted. She said that the newly formed TTIFCNY "will be at the forefront of spiritual empowerment and a renewed civic and social commitment to members of the Diaspora."
Glenville Ashby is a New York correspondent.