Some Notes on the Canadian Mission to Trinidad, II
In general, religion today does not occupy as large a space in personal or community life as it did a century ago. In a sociological sense, as much harm as good has been ascribed to european and neo-european religious fervour. Nevertheless, the Canadian Mission in Trinidad is a clear example of one success story, where noble and essential motives triumph over secularity and self-interest.
The individual missionaries who went to Trinidad did so because they saw that they could improve the lot of a segment of humanity. Their operational formula, so to speak, was necessarily cast within their religious concepts, but they were objective enough to realize that the essential need was intellectual education which would support their christian ethical concepts and values. Indeed, it may be said that they actually placed education in its primary sense ahead of religious zeal.
Nevertheless, their motives and educational constructs were founded in the Presbyterian church. Dr Grant worked everyday on his mission and made everything else in life secondary to it. He committed himself and his followers to elevated standards of performance, which would not be accepted by most workers in most professions today. With the backing of the church, he personally conducted an awesome campaign of sociological change and development. His reward was a fundamental change in the status, objectives, attitudes and lifestyles of an entire sub-population. Missionaries, like other mortals, are not created equal, and there were lesser lights in the mission to Trinidad, but the net achievement can only be gratefully admired.
In the British parliament, William Wilberforce's voice of conscience in 1833 was not greeted with acclaim. It took five more years for Wilberforce's humanistic legislation to be proclaimed in Trinidad. Thirty years later, in 1865, the States of the American confederation were still immersed in a bloody civil war, at least in part triggered by these ideas. In Trinidad, the Indian immigration was a better form of withdrawal from a fundamental evil. Indian plantation labour was a rather ingenious, bloodless, and peculiarly British administrative idea to effect parturition from an inhumane ideology, a moral indiscretion born in the adolescence of European world exploitation.
The Canadian Presbyterian church, by circumstance, lent grace to this administrative manoeuvre. Thus, ultimately, the missions were a part of the struggle for freedom from slavery, the subjugation of neighbouring tribes by european primitives. From within the same Empire that dealt misery to its unqualified subjects, came deliverance to a few. Amidst the darkness of history, of greed and exploitation, the acts of the missionaries shine clearly and steadily, and, like the verities they respected, FOREVER.