Religious freedom that came at a high price is worth celebrating to the fullest, Rev. Dr. Delores Seiveright, founding president of the Shouters National Evangelical Spiritual Baptist Faith (NESBF) Canada said last Sunday to mark Shouters Liberation Day.
“We ought to rejoice and be happy because this freedom came with a steep tag and great sacrifice,” she said. “Spiritual Baptists fought hard and long for their faith to be acknowledged.”
Spiritual Baptist/Shouters Liberation Day is an annual public holiday in Trinidad & Tobago that has been celebrated for the past 17 years on March 30. The holiday marks the repeal on that day in 1951 of the 1917 Shouter Prohibition Ordinance that outlawed the group’s activities.
The ban was imposed ostensibly because the Shouters celebrated too loudly. It was however suspected that the real reason their activities were curtailed was because the colonizers were opposed to their Afro-centred practices.
Worshippers who defied the ban were beaten, arrested and jailed and they had to flee to the hills and forests to practice their religion without interference. After much lobbying, the bill to overturn the ban was passed 63 years ago.
Over the years, Shouters in T & T have been awarded plots of land and allowed to establish their own schools.
Raised in a spiritual family, Seiveright was a member of the Anglican Church and the Church of God before embracing the Spiritual Baptist faith.
“Her ordination in 1997 signalled a new chapter in the development of the Spiritual Baptist Church in Toronto,” said Dr. Carol Duncan who authored This Spot of Ground; Spiritual Baptists in Toronto. “It created a formal link between Spiritual Baptist church organizations in Trinidad & Tobago and Canada…The history of the religion’s development in Toronto is intrinsically tied to the everyday life of circumstances of its members, both at home in the Caribbean and in the context of immigration and subsequent resettlement in Toronto.”
T & T consul general Dr. Vidhya Gyan Tota-Maharaj and Members of Provincial Parliament Bas Balkissoon and Mitzie Hunter attended the celebration.