THA to donate $1m for Tobago Baptist facility

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Chief Secretary Farley Augustine –

THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine says the executive council has agreed to put $1 million towards the completion of the Baptists’ multipurpose facility at Signal Hill, Tobago.

He made the announcement on March 30 while delivering the feature address at Spiritual/Shouter Baptist Liberation celebrations at the incomplete facility, west of the army camp.

The event was hosted by the Tobago United Spiritual Baptist Assembly.

The theme was Never Lose Hope, Continue The Fight. Augustine prefaced his announcement by saying that since becoming Chief Secretary in December 2021, he has consciously avoided making promises “because promises in the political world can be tricky.”

But he felt it was time the island’s Baptists had a dignified place to worship as a united body.

“It cannot be that as an island that we have given millions to everybody else for every other thing. We build their schools. We do all of the upgrades for millions of dollars. We give lands to church communities everywhere. We help them with retaining walls, with their functions, with their training programmes and we contribute and contribute. I think now is past time for us to do the same thing for our spiritual Baptists.”

Augustine said the executive council discussed the matter last week Wednesday.

“With leave from the executive council, I can tell you that we agreed, in the first instance, to put in $1 million towards the completion of the facility,” he said amid applause from celebrants.

Augustine said the labour for construction will come from the Division of Infrastructure, Quarries and Urban Development.

“I am advised that with that amount, we can get walls, roof, flooring, windows and property bathroom facilities.” An air-conditioning system and other amenities will come afterwards, he said.

Augustine also expressed hope that the division’s workers will also create an aesthetically pleasing environment around the facility so that they can worship in improved surroundings for next year’s Spiritual Shouter Baptist Liberation Day observance.

Earlier in his address, Augustine also called for a formal apology to be made to the spiritual Baptist community, who endured shame, fear and ridicule from their oppressors for generations.

“I wonder if we ever proffered a formal apology to the Spiritual Baptist community for what happened. I wonder if we ever apologized as a country or did we just move on or just repealed the Act in Parliament.

“Perhaps now is an appropriate time as a country for us to apologize to the Spiritual Baptist community for what we did to them all those years ago.”

He said despite the strides made by members of the faith over the years, “It hurts that there are still elements we are grappling with because back then believers had to pretend to belong to another faith in order to be accepted in the civil service, teaching service.”