Orisha, Baptist officials back Maha Sabha’s call to reopen rivers, streams

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

ELDERS of the Orisha and Spiritual Shouter Baptist faiths on Thursday supported Maha Sabha acting head Vijay Maharaj’s call for the Government to reopen rivers and streams for religious worship, and maybe more. These have been closed to curb the spread of covid19.

On Wednesday Maharaj told Newsday that like beaches, all watercourses should be opened from 5 am to 12 noon to all citizens including Hindus doing rituals requiring running water such as hair-cutting upon bereavement.

Newsday spoke to Neal Rawlins, secretary of the Council of Orisha Elders of Trinidad and Tobago, and Bishop Jeremiah Mason of the Spiritual Shouter Baptist faith.

“We had no issue really with the river. For (municipal) corporations in the area there was an arrangement that if we needed to use the river, just tell them. So that was always there.”

He said island waterways were worthy of homage and so should be reopened for religious purposes, recalling a missed Oshun ceremony last year.

“You may have persons going to do other things, but it should be ‘no alcohol’ and preserving nature itself.”

Neal urged that waterways be open beyond the 5 am-12 pm limit set for the seaside as a restriction could create crowds of bathers.

“But if you go up to 6 pm or 5 pm, it gives people more time and you will not have this rush and this heavy visitation, but it would space out people.

“I don’t think there should be any timeline.”

However, he lamented that some people flout pandemic protocols, despite some families being devastated by covid19 deaths.

Asked if riverside worship could spread the virus, he said not everyone from a temple or church would attend, while noting members of his community follow the rules to curb covid19.

He supported efforts to discourage gatherings and to urge people to mask and physically distance.

“In some rituals you have to be close, so that’s why we promote vaccination.”

Newsday asked what should be done if limers with rum bottles, loud music and cooking pots went to the rivers.

“We have to be careful. Again, the gathering. These festive events create gatherings.

“For the religious people, it is not that.

“You go there for a specific time, you do what you have to do and you get out. There is no cooking, no partying, no frolicking, no entertainment.”

Neal said, “The waterways need to be open for religious organisations. It is an important part of our rituals and it is part of the livelihood of the country.”

Mason told Newsday water had been used by Jesus Christ to cleanse the soul, mind and spirit, adding, “It is imperative that it should be open, properly.”

He questioned a 5 am-12 pm limitation, when instead God might guide a worshipper to a riverside at 9 pm.

“Being a Spiritual Baptist it really came back to the days when we were under ban. That’s a reflection of our past that is happening at present. So we pray God that he speaks to his (the Prime Minister’s) heart. Have the waterways opened up.

“People need the refreshing, especially with this ‘trial’ (covid19).” He warned of bias if only religious groups could access rivers.

Asked if covid19 might threaten riverside worship, he said, “We are not even getting a chance to bless the rivers for physical healing and removal of illnesses. That is why God placed it there. Revelation tells you a river leads to the healing of the nation.

“So if a religious ceremony is going on, God, who is the alpha and the omega, is going to wipe away all sicknesses, as he said, ‘By your stripes you are healed.'”

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