Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 12th 2013 Contents The church there is an enabler of community as much
as a place of worship. Its location overlooking a serene
landscape is heavenly. Its graveyard is a resting place
for generations of families. In England, nobody is buried
when they die, there isn t enough space left in the
ground. They get cremated. Ashes to ashes. Dust to
Driving through Tobago on a Saturday you would
think the island deserted. Nobody on the roads. Nothing
open. Seventh Day Adventism, a popular religion there,
has Saturday as its Sabbath. On Sundays, shops also
close for the Catholics and Anglicans. Tobago is a quiet
place of a weekend, except for the sound of prayer
blowing on the wind.
The Jehovah s Witnesses in Woodford Square, Port-
of-Spain are a quiet bunch too, timidly asking if you re
interested in reading something. We have them in Eng-
land too, mostly they work door-to-door, like God s
salesmen. Here they are more visible, out in the open.
But why so many of them?
What would Jehovah do? Would he go amongst the
humble, à la Jesus?
A colleague told me about the marathon Satan-
renouncing sessions her mother expects her to do at
their Pentecostal church. Another told me about her
family s conversion from Presbyterianism to Islam.
There seems to be a lot of converting going on here.
There are still some notable religious Brits of course.
The Queen, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown are all Chris-
tians. But it is the recent immigrants who are most
zealous. Nigerians and other West Africans in London
are absolutely mad about Jesus. They go to church for
eight hours on Sundays, you see them returning home
at dusk, shattered. Totally prayed out. Poles and Greek-
Cypriots are also big on God.
There are some extremely zealous British Muslims
as you may have heard. Some of them such staunch
believers they hack off heads and blow up tube trains.
But most of my Muslim friends---Turks, Arabs, Somalis,
Pakistanis---especially those born in the UK, do not
worship god. My Jewish friends do not believe in god.
They are secular liberal Jews. None of my Catholic
friends believe in God, even though they ve been con-
firmed. Hinduism in Britain, other than the giant BAPS
Shri Swaminarayan Mandir temple in Neasden, North
West London is a religion most people channel via
the Beatles Ravi Shankar-inspired pilgrimage to the
ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. George Harrison s
sitar on Within You, Without You is the closest we
get to worshipping Shiva.
As one of the world s oldest religions, it s difficult
for young Hindus in modern Britain to connect. Over
here, I m losing count of the number of posters of
Sathya Sai Baba I have seen---a symbol of the modern
power of Hinduism in T&T as well as in India.
The UK officially recognises each religious holiday
including Divali, Eid and Hannukah. But only one is
ordained a national holiday, Christmas.
Brits are not anti-religion, we are just confused by
the multiplicity of options and the squabbles people
have about which one is correct. In Northern Ireland,
Catholics and Protestants still fight each other over
the correct way to believe in the same Christian god
and the same disciple.
A Syrian-Christian living in Arima told me if you
put 3,000 Arabs together in a room they would have
3,000 fights because of their religious sects and historical
differences. Whereas here, he said, if you put 3,000
Trinis in a room they would just party; they leave their
religion at home.
It is impressive how religion in T&T does not create
barriers or hate. Peaceful co-existence and respect for
each other s faiths is heartwarming. I mean, for God s
sake, can t we all just get along?
Thursday, September 12, 2013 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
Last week I went to Sunday Mass at
church for the first time in my life.
A friend took me to St Finbar s RC church
in Diego Martin. The priest there is Irish.
Which was amusing for me. Like watching
an old episode of the British sitcom Father
The reason I ended up at church on a Sun-
day evening when I should have been at home
watching television is complicated. Let s just
say it was my way of saying sorry to some-
I wouldn t normally step inside a religious
building except as a tourist maccoing mosques
in the Middle East or monasteries in Mont-
pellier. I m an atheist, like the majority of
Brits. The UK is one of the most secular
countries in the world. In the British Social
Attitudes survey of 2009, 51 per cent selected
"No religion." Just six per cent of Brits regularly
attend church, according to census statistics.
And in a 2011 poll by YouGov, just 34 per
cent of the UK population said they believe
Put another way: 66 per cent of Brits do
not believe in god. We gave up on the concept
ages ago and started worrying about other
stuff. A church in England on a Sunday is a
desolate place. A church bell dolefully ringing
across a village, unheard by a nation deafened
Religion in T&T seems, to my untutored
eye, far more of an important social factor.
Whereas the Church of England represents
a piece of living antiquity, the beautifully
restored Anglican Church, St Patrick s, I
recently visited in Mt Pleasant, Tobago, is
living antiquity but also an integral part of
local people s lives. And not in a pious way.
Waiting for God? Oh.
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