|Citizens need to develop a sense of history. That was the plea of former Anglican Bishop Clive Abdulah, speaking on June 29 at the Annual General Meeting of the Inter Religious Organisation (IRO), which doubled as its 50th Anniversary of Independence Awards Ceremony.|
The other founders were then Senate President Dr Wahid Ali, a member of the Anjuman Sunnat-ul-Jamaat Association (ASJA); then POS Mayor Pandit Lakshmidatta Shivaprasad, of Arya Pratinidhi Sabha; and Archbishop Anthony Pantin.
Bishop Abdulah said it was important to have a “historical record” of the work and service done by religious leaders over the last 50 years, noting “we have not paid enough attention to our history”. He explained that this was evident by the many historical buildings which have collapsed. He added that an appreciation of one’s history added to the collective “sense of self-worth and dignity”, in particular for “those who come after”.
Of the 62 awardees, seven were Catholic: Archbishop Joseph Harris; Vicar for Clergy, Fr Clyde Harvey; San Fernando parish priest Msgr Christian Pereira; Assumption parish priest Fr Garfield Rochard; Siparia parishioner Stephen Daly; and Archbishop Pantin and Canon Max Murphy, both posthumously.
Co-chairman of the ceremony, Hans Hanoomansingh, described US-born priest Canon Murphy as having been instrumental in bringing educational opportunities to the people of Chaguanas and environs.
Some of the other well-known religious leaders who were honoured were: Dr Henry Collymore (Baha’i, deceased); Haji Yacoob Ali (ASJA); former senator Apiskopus Archbishop Barbara Gray Burke (Spiritual Shouter Baptist); pastor Dr Clive Dottin (Seventh-Day Adventist); Ravindranath Maharaj, aka Ravi Ji (Hindu Prachar Kendra); Rev Cyril Paul (Presbyterian Church, deceased); Brother Noble Khan (Trinidad Muslim League); Rev Turnel Nelson (deceased) and Rev Dr Winston Cuffie (Pentecostal); and Anglicans Bishop Rawle Douglin, Canon Knolly Clarke and current Bishop Claude Berkley.
The IRO’s 23 member organisations submitted the names of potential awardees. That list was then whittled down, explained current IRO president Brother Harrypersad Maharaj of Brahma Kumaris Raja Yoga Centre, and nominees from non-member organisations were added so that the final list was as inclusive as possible. Of the 62 individuals chosen – 62 because T&T gained Independence in 1962, seven were women.
Invited guests included Speaker of the House of Representatives, Wade Mark; former Senate President Dr Linda Baboolal; Minister of Planning and Sustainable Development, Senator Dr Bhoendradatt Tewarie; Rodger Samuel, Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister; and Senator Embau Moheni, Minister of State in the Ministry of National Diversity and Social Integration.
Minister Moheni brought greetings on behalf of Minister Clifton De Coteau, while Minister Samuel represented Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
Samuel, who is also a pastor, said the current Government would continue to support the IRO, which, he noted, began “after a period of struggle” – referring to the 1970 State of Emergency. “But out of struggle cometh good,” he remarked. Samuel also thanked the IRO for its consistent attendance at and involvement in major national events, and its continued efforts to strengthen the “peace and harmony” in the nation.
IRO secretary Joan Irish said in her report that monthly meetings were currently held at either rented facilities or at properties belonging to a member organisation and so the IRO intended to approach the Ministry of National Diversity and Social Integration for assistance in establishing a permanent headquarters.
During the event, the IRO’s revamped website – www.iro.co.tt – was also launched.