The repeal of the Shouters Prohibition Ordinance of 1917 was a great victory for those who had fought long and hard to secure it. For their unique and lively religious expression, Spiritual Baptists were forced underground for thirty-four years and treated as pariahs in their own country. Amid great persecution, they held fast to the faith, endured harassment, humiliation, even imprisonment, and resisted on various fronts until they finally gained the right to practise their faith freely.
Reflecting on this dark chapter of our history affords us the opportunity to not only learn its salutary lessons, but also avoid repeating its grim mistakes. As vibrant, productive and esteemed members of the national community, Spiritual Baptists deserve no less. On Spiritual Baptist Liberation Day, we celebrate with them as they acknowledge the painful past, contemplate their arduous journey to recognition and rejoice in their hard-earned freedoms.
For the Spiritual Baptist faithful, conformity to colonial prohibition was never a feasible option. They stood their ground, and from the implementation of the ban until its lifting, agitated and persisted in demanding the fairness and equality that was rightfully theirs. They did not stop at hoping and praying for freedom, but went further, banding together to actively champion their cause. Even after Spiritual Baptists were granted freedom of worship in 1951, they continued to campaign for their due, until they were granted an official holiday in 1996 and subsequently, lands and a school.
Today, we applaud and embrace their unswerving faith, persevering spirit and commitment to the advancement of their community. Their experience exemplifies to us the power of unity and the possibilities for change that can arise from devotion to a common cause.
We, the rest of the nation, can do more—much more—than marvel at their solidarity and determination. We can also take pattern from their example and approach our present challenges with similar resolve and unity of purpose. The recent lifting of most Covid-19 restrictions signals that the worst of times is behind us, but also presents a golden opportunity for citizens, who have been asked to ‘control themselves’, to demonstrate their commitment to achieving the national goal of putting the pandemic firmly in the rear-view mirror. We will rise to the occasion, together braving these trying times so that we all can reap the benefits.
Join me as I wish the Spiritual Baptist community a safe, joyous and vibrant Spiritual Baptist Liberation Day.