Tuesday, March 5, 2024
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Freedom of conscience versus a day of prayer

On a local radio programme this week, a strong call was made for a national day of prayer. Listeners joined in the call made by the hosts as they expressed the need for people to get down on their knees and prayer. A slight argument was even introduced when some callers asked for a day of thanksgiving instead of prayers. However, it was not made clear on the programme what would be the focus of the prayers or even the thanksgiving. But the consensus seems to be that a day of prayer is definitely in the making. Interestingly a member of the Muslim faith called in to share his opinion on the idea of encouraging people to prayer just for a day, when man by nature was created to worship Allah at least five times a day.

In a country where the Constitution supports freedom of conscience which is translated to freedom to follow whatever religions that people may wish to, it leaves one to wonder about the shape a national day of prayer will take. The latest constitution was given to the State of Grenada upon its attainment of independence in 1974. The atmosphere at that time saw four main churches: the Catholic which was the main religious faith introduced by the French, followed by the Anglican or Church of England which became the main church during the colonial days when the United Kingdom won Grenada from France in war. There was also the Methodist (or Wesleyan) Church for people who did not care to be Anglican or Catholic and the Presbyterian which was created for the Indian section of society who were mostly the offspring of the indentured servants who came to Grenada on May 01 after emancipation.

Other churches were referred to as wayside churches with very little power or say in any national event. Today, almost fifty years after independence, a count can reveal near to thirty three churches of different beliefs and denomination. There are members who while they all claim that they are worshipping the same God will not be caught dead in another church other than their own. There are even worshippers who believe that there is already a set figure for the people who will be selected to go to Heaven after the second coming of Christ. Taking all this into consideration, it may be harder than one thinks to organise a national day of prayer.

Incidentally, the term day of prayer started with Sir Eric Gairy when his Grenada United Labour Party (GULP) was in power and he faced the wrath of the New Jewel Movement as the main opposition party. During that time with the dominant churches being the Anglican and Catholic it probably was not too difficult to get a buy in on the idea and also have them lead the way. However with the power vested in them over time, those churches became a force for the Prime Minister to reckon with. There are still people around who can remember the Assembly of Youth as part of a certain church, which encouraged the young people to become active in politics. Then there were articles appearing in newspapers from a certain Methodist Minister which placed the government of the day in bad light. But Sir Eric still managed to control the day of prayer by using the lone radio station (Radio Grenada) as the driving force. So broadcasting was toned down on that day which controlled the spirit of the nation.

In recent times the idea of day of prayer was tried but failed miserably. Not even the media joined in any big way and the young people simply took the time to go to the beach. With so many different churches now in Grenada, with different beliefs some even secular, just how easy will it be to really organise a national day of prayer? It may be a great idea to some but the actual execution of plans to engage the entire nation seems farfetched. But we await to see just how it will work. While there are so many churches of different denomination, Grenada is not seen as a highly religious country. But from time to time events are held which show that there are enough people who believe that there is a mighty power out there that needs worshipping to bring success.

Carriacou as part of Grenada has kept up the practice of paying homage to ancestors (mostly African) which some people see as a high level of spirituality. It is believed that the spirits of the people who have died a long time ago have stayed on the little island and must be fed and respected for peaceful co-existence. So the tradition of maroon which was probably introduced with the Transatlantic Slave Trade or maybe shortly after, as a religious practice is deeply rooted in the culture even today.

The occasion may very well attract a crowd of visitors especially people who have an interest in Cultural Anthropology. This will be good for tourism and other business.

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