Trinidad & Tobago is considered a multi-cultural and multi-religious state. I grew up with the understanding that we are not all the same but we are the same, and need to respect each other. As a child, I went to school with children of different races, religions and social status. We were all different shades of color, and different textures of hair. We all wore the same uniform, and combed our hair with two white ribbons ( a girl school). As children we played together and most importantly celebrated and learnt about each other’s religions.
There was a religious instruction class which shared on Christianity (Roman Catholicism), Islam, Hinduism, the three major religions in our society. There were other religions, like the Pentecostal / Evangelical, Orisha Baptists, Baha’i, which we were informed about based on the children in the class. The best thing about religious practices, as a child were the holidays. We were given a day off for each official holiday, and we would be given treats while stories about their practices were demonstrated. Thus I grew up with religious tolerance and respect, finding it quite normal for my friends to be different in their beliefs.
In Trinidad & Tobago Eid UL Ftir is considered a major religious holiday. Each year, the sighting of the full moon for Ramadan is observed and the date for Eid declared. There are over eighty mosques in Trinidad and Tobago. This holiday is considered one of the commercial busy periods for Islamic/Eastern garments, household items and food. Banks, Schools, government and commercial businesses all participate in some form of symbolic recognition, via signs, food, employees attired in Islamic traditional wear, and sales promotions. It really can be considered a financial integration of religious culture to the benefit of the economy!
I stopped along a main road in the Chaguanas area, and paused to look at the gaily colored garments for sale. Then, as I looked at a store front, my view was obstructed by the burglar bars at the front of the display. It looked beautiful, and sad, because of the barriers. These barriers caused my thoughts to go to Baghdad, Turkey and the entire Middle East. My vision became obscured because I recalled a time in my history class when there were less wars and less barriers.
Interestingly my children went to both Christian and Muslim Schools, and have relationships with friends of many religions. My eldest son was also a Head-boy at his Muslim college and he is a Christian. Likewise one of his friends was Head-boy at the Catholic College he attended and he is a Muslim.There are times they will debate and discuss world events and yet there are no arguments.Wedding, funerals, we have experienced them all because there is no barrier to brotherly love!
My neighbors, those who are Muslim, on July 6th will go to their mosques and pray, and feed the poor, then return home and share with everyone a meal. In the Middle East, and Turkey and many places in the world, celebrations will be difficult.There holy period of peace a time of war.
This society is not perfect. We too have radical extremists of Islam and other religions, but for now they are in the minority. Our children are more aware of what is happening worldwide, and will copy what they see if we stop teaching them to respect each other. Our culture is one which shares and integrates festivities.
We do have racial discrimination creeping in at times but that is not allowed to grow, rather it is discouraged. As a people our culture dictates our behavior and our various religions are ALL treated with respect.
I looked at the picture again, and I see the barriers blocking the beauty of the garments and the people. Then I remember, these are mannequins, they are for display purposes only, yet they are treasured. What about life, yours and mine. I think of Muslim and Christian; Syrian and Iranian; African and European; people with differences, with no barriers to protect their lives when they are attacked by extremist militants.
Baghdad, over 200 people killed at the close of Ramadan at the hands of suicide bombers. Once again there is death and destruction. My heart hurts for the innocent lives lost and those grieving, trying to find a way to ease the pain of loss!
My thoughts return to those happy days when I was unaware that hatred existed for everything. When I held hands and sang with my friends with many differences. We shared, we loved and we dreamed to grow up to be big.
Trinidad & Tobago is a multicultural place, a multi-religious society.
Eid Mubarak !
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