“Here every creed and race…” - 5 Oct 2008
“Here every creed and race…”
Last Wednesday, the entire nation celebrated Eid ul-Fitr alongside our Muslim brothers and sisters. The highlight of Eid for me was visiting a Masjid in Carapichaima on the invitation of my friend Sheriff Faizool. It was a wonderful experience. The next morning, I listened and smiled as many in the gym, Fitness Centre, exchanged stories of how they spent their Eid holiday with friends and family – enjoying good food…especially sawine.
For me, one of the main messages of Eid was to appreciate just how fortunate we are in Trinidad and Tobago. Nothing wrong with counting our blessings – ent? Yes, we have very real problems as a country but at the same time, ours is a nation where many ethnicities live together and are able to get along relatively well.
This becomes very apparent when we consider the ethnic challenges that other parts of the world continue to face.
In Kosovo, the International Crisis Group notes in a new report that divisions between Albanians and Serbs continue to widen and prospects for a unitary state may be evaporating. The report speculates that if a de facto partition becomes entrenched, pressure to redraw borders along ethnic lines throughout the former Yugoslavia will mount and prospects for EU membership for countries in the region would become even less likely.
In the Hague, prosecutors at the International Criminal Court have been trying to persuade a panel of judges to issue a controversial arrest warrant in connection with the ethnic violence that has been raging in Sudan for the past 5 or so years. The United Nations says that up to 300 000 people have died from the combined effects of war, famine and disease and more than 2.2 million have fled their homes.
The third example that springs to my mind is the ethnic tension in Jerusalem and the occupied territories. The latest I have seen is that outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert agrees that Israel will have to give up virtually all the land that it captured in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War if it wants peace with the Palestinians. A powerful statement but the real test is whether there is sufficient political will on all sides to turn this into a reality. Until this is resolved, and maybe even thereafter, daily life for those in the occupied territories is, and will continue to be, a real struggle.
Then we come back again to Trinidad and Tobago. Again, I am not naively suggesting that all is perfect but if we are to be truly honest with ourselves, we do have much to be grateful for.
When I travel overseas or even just ‘chatting’ with my overseas friends on the net, I feel pride when I talk about all the races that make up Trinidad and Tobago. Yes we celebrate Christmas as a public holiday, but we also celebrate Eid, Divali and Spiritual / Shouter Baptist Liberation Day. I am proud to be a Trinbagonian.
You can see the diversity in our faces and also feel that unique power in our music.
‘Soca Power in Trinidad and Tobago’ was one of the documentaries screened at the recent Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival at Movietowne. It was by Frenchman Claude Santiago and it reminds us of the origins of soca music - a fusion of calypso and Indo Trinidadian rhythms. There was also Sophie Meyer’s ‘Salt of the Earth’ about our parang music which speaks to our connection to the South American continent. They were two strong documentaries.
Vision 2020 invites us to continue ‘nurturing a caring society’. The draft report says that nurturing a caring society is about sowing and growing seeds of love and patriotism and ensuring no individual, group or community is left behind and no one walks alone. FBAR Form Singapore
This Sunday, I want to pay my respects to the Muslim community here in Trinidad and Tobago and acknowledge the pivotal role that they have played in making this country what it is. Much has been achieved but there is still much to do as we continue our journey towards 2020.