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Do Not Erect Walls Between Us
Posted: Thursday, November 4, 2004

By Stephen Kangal

As a Presbyterian belonging to the same Presbyterian flock as Rev Arthur Yorke I am outraged by the separatist, regimented, bigoted boundary approach that he advocated in his Commentary (Guardian 30 Oct. p.27) relating to participation in the national festivals of Divali, Eid and Xmas. These festivals have developed beyond the boundaries of creed and have emerged with a large social and religious outreach involving the total cosmopolitanism of Trinbago. What locus standi does Rev. Arthur Yorke has to tell a Hindu or Moslem how he should celebrate his festival and who he should exclude. The prescription of Rev. Yorke is " … we do not associate with religious groups to which we do not belong." What about the individuals that are our neighbours and who belong to other faiths?

These festivals have long dismantled and transcended the socio-ethnic-religious divides in T&T. They are multiculturally accommodative and national in scope and character. Rev. Yorke's position is not only regrettable and false but unrepresentative of the Presbyterian Church to which he belongs.

Who will debar non-Hindus or Hindus from observing Divali. Certainly not the all-embracing Lakshmi Mata. In India Hindus eat meat, gamble and conduct trade and bazaars galore at Divali.

In the spirit of the IRO, participation in the Festivals of Divali, Eid and Xmas must be encouraged across the divide in multreligious T&T. Rev Yorke is telling me, a Presbyterian, not to accept my annual invitation to join my Hindu/Moslem brothers to light a deya, accept "prasad" and eat "sawine". That cannot be a Presbyterian position.

Rev Yorke pontificates:

"If any non-Hindu person, or Christian…or Muslim participates in Divali or even lights a deya, he or she is desecrating the celebrations. He or she is performing an act of mockery or insulting the goddess to whom the celebration is devoted…"

As a Presbyterian I will light a deya (on the 11 of Nov) and will not desecrate all-embracing Hinduism. Lakshmi Mata will bless me. Almighty Allah will reward me for joining my Moslem neighbours in the observance of Eid. Christ will bless the Samaritans for reaching out to each other in a neighbourly display of national solidarity and cross cultural harmony.

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