A workers from Magic Mist cleaning company cleans The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Independence Square, Port-of-Spain yesterday in preperation of Friday’s opening.

As churches prepare to resume public gatherings with the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, a Christian research group is calling for deeper collaboration with the Government.

A position paper compiled by Apostle Terrence Honore and Dr Anthony Oliver of the Christian Think Tank highlights the need for an improved relationship between the state and religious organisations.

“The restrictions imposed on the congregants, chaffed against the sensitivities of the worshippers, who in turn contended that their individual and constitutional rights were being trampled upon and even so, without dialogue.

“Granted that the primary issue of health and preservation of life trumps the consideration of gathering to worship, there must also be an acknowledgement of dissent among the ranks of the Christian faith,” the document states.

“While the health restrictions were tolerable, there is the view that the rules violated every sacred vow regarding the freedom of worship in a democratic society. This is not merely an academic argument but a deeply held spiritual consideration.”

Noting the need for a greater sense of involvement and corporation from religious groups and organizations the group said the “reach and influence of the church positively affects the sanity, productivity, stability and spirituality of the society.”

The Christian Think Tank recommended the following measures to strengthen the relationship between the church and state:

• A review of the operations of the Ecclesiastical Affairs, a division in the Prime Minister’ Office for more meaningful dialogue and as a channel for expressions and support to national policy formulation and implementation of national measures.

• Institution of a National Day of Prayer and Thanksgiving on a date early in each year.

• A Special Chapel to be set up in the Red House for religious groups to offer prayers on behalf of the government and the nation on a continuous rostered basis.

• Establishment of a chaplaincy programme at all regional corporations and national security arms so daily prayers can be offered at designated chapels, hospitals and regional corporations.

• Introduction of a National Consultation Forum on ecclesiastical matters to ensure alignment of governments programmes with activities of the church.

• Introduction of a special annual grant to encourage the churches provision of support to less fortunate in society. Government should support this social net through the reinforcement of the efforts of the churches in the communities at large.

The paper continued: “Ultimately, the government can facilitate and enhance the contributions of the Christian community by encouraging dialogue and common approaches to critical issues.

“There must be an understanding that while organizations may be set in their respective religious persuasions, matters of state regarding welfare and survival of the people must take priority albeit secondary to spiritual-religious considerations.”

According to the Christian Think Tank, execution of state-wide measures that criss-cross the lines of faith have been a source of dissent and cause of conflicts in the course of world history.

“But conclusively, we see the elements of this discourse as being fundamental to retaining our freedom of worship and the continuance of peace in our land,” the group states.