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Ruminations on religion; Shah shares his inner-feelings on faith

Not being a religious person, I must confess that religion (used here collectively) confuses me, and quite often frightens me.

Photo: US President Barack Obama (right) Obama talks with Pope Francis during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, September 23, 2015.  More than 15,000 people packed the South Lawn for a full ceremonial welcome on Pope Francis' historic maiden visit to the United States.  (Copyright AFP 2015/Mandel Ngan)
Photo: US President Barack Obama (right) Obama talks with Pope Francis during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, September 23, 2015.
More than 15,000 people packed the South Lawn for a full ceremonial welcome on Pope Francis’ historic maiden visit to the United States.
(Copyright AFP 2015/Mandel Ngan)

Mark you, I am not disrespectful towards religion or religious persons. If I were, I’d be alienated from most of my family, relatives, friends and fellow-citizens, almost all of whom are praying people who belong to one faith or other among the scores that form the tapestry of this cosmopolitan country.

I respect people’s right to believe, just as I expect them to respect my right not to believe.

But I am confused by many things religious persons say and do. As I noted, ours is a deeply religious society, one in which most people pray to God in one form or other at least once a day. Many of my Muslim brethren pray five times daily. In some faiths, devotees pray non-stop for days, as part of rituals. And most religions host communal prayers at least once weekly.

Upon taking up office recently, Prime Minister Keith Rowley summoned clerics from every recognised religion to pray with him at his office. He declared Republic Day a day of prayers and called on the nation to observe it as such.

The day of prayers coincided with the holiest day on the Islamic calendar, Eid ul Adha, when the billion-or-so Muslims around the world prayed and conducted sacrifices.

Photo: Muslim pilgrims on their mecca. (Courtesy spa.gov.sa)
Photo: Muslim pilgrims on their mecca.
(Courtesy spa.gov.sa)

That ex-Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar did not join him at the convocation at the Savannah does not mean that she and her colleagues did not observe the occasion. She is among the very rare breed, the bi-religious, a practising Hindu and a Baptist.

So we can safely assume that one way or other, she was in deep prayers last Thursday.

During her five-year tenure, the lady had often declared national days of prayers, which has been one common feature among almost every Government that ruled the country with the notable exception of Dr Eric Williams’. He did not care much for religion and prayers, although like me, he respected other people’s faiths and practices.

So, with prayers echoing across the country day and night, from the mouths, and hopefully hearts, of the vast majority of citizens, you would think that God, Jah, Allah, Ram, Ogun, the deity by whatever name he is called, would shower blessings of peace, harmony and prosperity on the nation.

I suppose believers would say we are a blessed nation, endowed with rich resources that afford us a decent standard of living. And although there is a significant minority who fan the flames of discord, the nation has been spared the racial and communal explosions we see in so many other countries.

Photo: Tribe revellers let loose on Carnival Monday in 2015.  (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Tribe revellers let loose on Carnival Monday in 2015.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)


But is that all we get in return for so many faiths, so much prayers?

Why are we burdened with a never-ending cycle of crime, notably cold-blooded murders, that is bleeding us dry, siphoning the lifeblood of the mostly young, though not necessarily innocent, in the society?

Why the callousness towards life, be it infants and toddlers suffering in squalor, the infirm unable to access medical treatment, or the aged having to endure their misnamed “golden years” in abandonment and suffering?

This while the so-called white collar criminals, the godfathers of street crime (the real drug dealers and gunrunners) and pilferers of the public purse, live in luxury, enjoying preferred pews in class-conscious churches, or blessings from imams and pundits for their generous contributions to mosques and mandirs, tainted money all of it.

When, pray tell, will we see any of these demons brought to justice, made to pay for their crimes against country, against humanity?

Photo: US first lady Michelle Obama protests against Boko Haram's kidnapping of young female students in Nigeria.
Photo: US first lady Michelle Obama protests against Boko Haram’s kidnapping of young female students in Nigeria.

This is where I return to religion, to the clerics who tell us ask and it will be given, seek and ye shall find.

The whole damn country has been asking, seeking, pleading for the day we can see these purveyors of theft and death and destruction slammed into dank cells that, for centuries, have been the domain of only poor black people, albeit some evil ones.

Instead, we see them walking tall in communities where their guns render them immune from police bullets or prosecution, or being driven in their limousines, untouchables of an elite order.

These contradictions between the biblical Word and Flesh have me confused.

I must confess that Pope Francis’ portrayal of Christ as both the Redeemer and the Liberator is the best thing to have happened to the Catholic Church since the era of Archbishops Camara of Recife and Romero of San Salvador, the latter murdered by the military while administering to the poor.

Still, when 700 Muslim pilgrims are crushed to death as they stone Satan, I retreat into the ranks of those of little or no faith, from whence I continue my ruminations.

About Raffique Shah

Raffique Shah
Raffique Shah is a columnist for over three decades, founder of the T&T International Marathon, co-founder of the ULF with Basdeo Panday and George Weekes, a former sugar cane farmers union leader and an ex-Siparia MP. He trained at the UK’s Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and was arrested, court-martialled, sentenced and eventually freed on appeal after leading 300 troops in a mutiny at Teteron Barracks during the Black Power revolution of 1970.

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  1. Religion now has been reduced to mere rituals with followers adopting modern dominant ‘free’ lifestyle. There is need for a divinely inspired leader to emerge to combat the forces of evil who control world finances, goverments , media and miltary. Christians and Muslims await the coming of Jesus The Messiah who will deal with the antichrist ruler of israel appropriately

  2. Good to see Uncle Raf threw off the shackles of religion

  3. Muslims claim that they serve the same God as Christians. Just not the same name. And well they don’t believe in Jesus.

    • Muslims and Christians do serve the same God…we are literally cousins. The two religions came out of two brothers, both children of Abraham; Christianity from Issac, Abraham’s legitimate son with his wife Sarah who was recognized by God and who inherited The Promise and Ishmael (hence Ishmaelites) Abraham’s son by Hagar. A MAID, maid who God also blessed, God would “multiply him exceedingly,” and that he would be the father of “twelve princes” and a “great nation would proceed from him” (Genesis 17:20). but who was also cast out and who God foretold would be “a wild ass among men; his hand shall be against every man, and every man’s hand against him. And he shall dwell over against all his brethren” (Genesis 16:12). and while Christians recognize Jesus as the Saviour while the the Muslims believe in Prophet Muhammad.

  4. Every religion doesn’t posit that it’s the one true faith Prince?

  5. Ucill, I agree with your assessment. And honestly the scriptures call for this world to get worse. But the word also says that the judgement will start in the church. First he will deal with the corruption in the church, then what you speak of. The writer mentioned something that we Trinidadians may never want to admit. In our anthem it says let every creed and race find an equal place. I believe that every race can find and equal place, but if we really thing about it every creed may never find an equal place. How can the former prime minister be baptist and Hindu? I don’t think think that every religion will find an equal place. In my faith in God I am called to love everyone. And I am not God so I will never judge. I am pretty sure every creed will never find an equal place in Trinidad. A Muslim and Christian and any other religion may be friends but they will not accept each other’s beliefs. And Kendall Tull every religion doesn’t say the same thing.

  6. Every religion says the same thing and every believer claims theirs is the one true faith. Religion is by its nature deeply divisive.

  7. To write of a “contradiction” between the Word and flesh is to show an ignorance of the Word Anyone intimate with God’s Word can attest that it is all going according to scripture and far more sooner than later the non-believers along with the rest of the world, because not believing does not set them apart or make them immune, will unfortunately get first hand experience of what a true and living God can do. God is all the wonderful things we like to toute, but he is also a God of wrath. God is about to show up and do a ting. After all the world is his creation and he can do with it as he well pleases. Sit back and watch.

    • There we go, girl, Ucill. Scare them into believing. It works every time.
      I’m incapable of what Miguel de Unamuno calls “the charcoal burner’s faith,” which is what, I think, Roseanne is attesting to, the unshakeable conviction that a life without God is not a life. But I am not into the scare tactics so I simply ask you to consider two separate and distinct views:
      Voltaire, a non-believer for most of his life, declared that “If God did not exist, we would have had to invent him.” Interestingly, he recanted on his deathbed.
      Albert Camus, one of the philosophers credited with the development of Existentialism, takes the view that, even if God created us,, “we are on our own, left to our own devices, here on Earth.”

  8. Interestingly, Raffique went to great pains to make his respect for either side quite clear. So I hope we don’t go down the road of villifying each other for different views on the topic.

  9. Religion is the Devil. Thank goodness I have exorcised that demon long ago. I am free … No longer a slave to doctrine or to hate…

  10. I feel very sorry for Raffique Shah. Unless you feel that perfect peace and within you which is actually the love of God you have not truly lived. No one and nothing can bring us to this level of bliss. God is a God of love and if we open our hearts to Him we will experience blissful love ‘that passes all understanding’ and this helps us to love all of God’s creations. This does not mean that we will not sin because we are human and we were given free choice and we have to deal with the tempations of the devil and the world.
    There us nothing without God and I believe that most people that say that they don’t believe in God usually convert on their death bed. I will pray for his conversion.