Religious groups in the Caribbean have been challenged to share their stories, as the Prime Minister called for a greater level of tolerance and “celebration of diversity” globally.
Mia Mottley’s call came as she addressed a book launch on the history of Islam in the Caribbean at the 3 W’s Oval of the University of the West Indies at Cave Hill on Wednesday evening.
The book, Muslims of CARICOM, written by Sabir Nakhuda, sheds light on the history and depth of the contribution that Muslims have made to the development of the Islamic and the wider communities in the region.
“We have a story to tell to the world that the world needs to hear,” Mottley told the gathering, which included a number of government officials and members of the Islamic community.
“We have understood as a migrant community that we needed to be able to define for ourselves, first a path of survival and then a path of prospering within a land that was not initially ours, and in circumstances where those who controlled our movements had no desire for us to do more than eke out a basic existence,” she said.
Expressing satisfaction with the way the region welcomed people of different faiths, Mottley said she was aware that other regions were familiar with what it was “to have people vilified and marginalized and discriminated against”.
Mottley said: “The capacity to carry bitterness in your heart is there within every human being.
“But rather than opt for bitterness, this Caribbean region has shown that it is possible to define a space for all of us that allows each of us to be able to appeal to the better aspects of our nature and to create a space where respect for the dignity of each human being is the platform from which our societies as modern civilizations ought to be built.”
Mottley said the Caribbean society had a responsibility to tell the story of “the pathways by which persons came here”.
“We recognize that the pathways by which all of us got here are different and we have a duty to tell those stories, first to our own and secondly, to the rest of the world as an inspiration that in spite of where we come from we have known what it is to rise above our circumstances and celebrate life and respect the dignity of each other”, she added.
The Prime Minister acknowledged that the stability among different religious sects here could be threatened by “global events”, which included the “inability of persons of different faiths and different civilizations to be able to live together and respect one another on landmasses far larger than anything we have access to”.
While not singling out any nation, Mottley said the Caribbean should call for an end to the “isms and schisms” they are “fighting with against religion” to discriminate and subjugate others.
She said her administration was willing to work with different religious groups here to ensure even closer relations.
Mottley said: “We have a duty in this region to remind others and ourselves because it is so easy to take for granted many things, remind others that ours is a society that values these aspects of respect and that values that tolerance as a critical part of our society.”
Welcoming the publication, the Prime Minister said the author was helping to lead the way for regional integration.
Muslim communities in each of the 15 CARICOM member states are covered in Nakhuda’s book. There are chapters on several Muslim personalities who made a significant impact on the community.
The book is intended to dispel misconceptions including that Islam is a recent phenomenon to this region, practised mainly by outsiders or newer migrants to the Caribbean.