Pressing onward: a time of hope, triumph and transformation
My brothers and sisters, we celebrate another year of nationhood and self-governance in very different times. I first want to remind us that we have so much to be grateful for. It has now been 47 years since our beautiful flag was hoisted for the first time and this magnificent collection of islands and cays became an independent nation. It cannot be lost on us that while we have a long way to go in our national and human development, we have what many around the world crave – freedom. As we celebrate, we cannot forget those who played a role in overcoming the challenges of our journey.
Bahamians, the future is calling us; it is imperative that we answer. We stand on the shoulders of people who were courageous enough to think beyond their circumstances and reach for what was believed at the time to be lofty goals.
Those of us who have benefited from their bold and consequential actions cannot be the ones to hinder progress. I believe that we have come to a time in our history where we can no longer solely live off the triumphs of our forebears, but must blaze new and innovative trails for those who will inherit this country from our generation. Our legacy is at stake. We must respect the efforts of the past and work toward a bright and prosperous future.
More often than not, there is opportunity to be found in adversity. No doubt, there are Bahamians who are finding it difficult to survive. The colossal damage caused by Hurricane Dorian and the economic fallout of COVID-19 have left many at a loss as to how they can restart. However, the same God that sustained us before can and will do it again. We must trust that the fact that we are still here, in the land of the living, is proof that God has a plan for our lives and that we have a contribution to make not only to our individual families but to the entire Bahamas.
This year’s theme, “Pressing Onward: A Time of Hope, Triumph and Transformation”, is incredibly apt and timely. In the third chapter of the book of Philippians, it says, “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.” Bahamians, we cannot accept our current state as the end of our journey; we must press on. We must believe that better days are coming. We must resolve that we will do the work necessary to rebuild our islands and our economy in a way that pays homage to our past but is in the best interest of Bahamians of today and those yet unborn.
Those of us privileged to be Bahamian should understand that our country is one of God’s best creations and we are the protectors of what we have been given.
I pray every day for our country and its leaders. I pray that we find our way back to the path of nation building. I pray that we do not squander the opportunity that adversity has presented to us because of our fear of moving away from what is familiar toward the next level of development. I pray that the spark of inspiration and aspiration once again ignites in our country, that the achievements of the past pale in comparison to what we are about to do. I pray that we all come to know that God is able to do above whatever we can ask or think, and that that belief propels us toward the greatness that awaits us.
May God bless you and may God bless the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.
– Bishop Delton Fernander,
president, Bahamas Christian Council
Maintaining and building The Bahamas is the job of every citizen and resident
“Give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.” – Psalm 136:1
At this time, the Commonwealth of The Bahamas celebrates 47 years of independence. It is a tremendous achievement. Many of us were present on Clifford Park on the evening of June 9, 1973, when the Union Jack was lowered for the last time and the new national flag was hoisted for the first time. I was there – a wide-eyed 11-year-old.
At the time, Great Britain was seeking to divest herself of her many overseas “colonies” (as they were then called) as possible. This was due, in some measure, to the tremendous economic strain that came with maintaining so many “dependent children”. In our own Caribbean region, a number of countries had already preceded The Bahamas by assuming independence from Britain:
Jamaica – August 6, 1962Trinidad and Tobago – August 31, 1962Guyana – May 26, 1966Barbados – November 30, 1966The Bahamas – July 10, 1973Then followed:
Grenada – February 7, 1974Suriname – November 25, 1975 (independence from The Netherlands)Dominica – November 3, 1978St. Lucia – February 22, 1979St. Vincent and the Grenadines – October 27, 1979Belize – September 21, 1981Antigua and Barbuda – November 1, 1981St. Kitts and Nevis – September 19, 1983“Venturing out” from Britain had its risks, but it was a part of a regional and global movement in those decades when many colonial powers were releasing their dependent territories. Independence was being encouraged and it was a part of the “next step” in national identity, evolution and global realignment.
Our leaders at the time were prepared to take on the responsibility. It was a huge step, a frightening thought and a risky undertaking. Many thought The Bahamas should not do it. However, we launched out – we had to – and have made an excellent go of it. Like every country, we have our successes and failures. We have done some things well and can do some things better. There is a lot of room for improvement and a long way to go.
Since independence – and all that independence involves, entails, demands and occasions – we have grown. We have made strides. We have evolved in ways that we would not have done and could not have done had we remained a colony of Britain – or a British Overseas Territory, as they are now called. (There are 14 such remaining territories on the planet, including six in the Caribbean, of which our own Turks and Caicos Islands is one.)
Independence time is a time to celebrate and to thank God.
We thank God for:
The Bahamas; all that she is and all that she stands for.
The wonderful Bahamian people who are creative, lively and engaging.
The natural beauty of these islands.
The freedom and peace that we enjoy.
The political freedom and stability here.
The small, closely-knit and friendly society.
The warm spirit of the Bahamian people.
The kind of life we are able to live here.
Yes, there are many things about our country that we do not like, that we would like to change and that need to change. We must never lose sight of these, nor give up trying to work for positive change and improvement. Let us recognize and celebrate all the good people who work hard every day, and who have worked hard over the decades, to make this country what it is.
Let us remember also that the work of maintaining and of building The Bahamas is the job of every citizen and resident. It is not “those people’s” responsibility; it is our responsibility. Bahamaland is only as strong or as weak as you and me.
Let’s celebrate! Let’s be thankful! God has been so abundantly good to us. Let’s see our cup as half-full and not as half-empty. Let’s walk together and not get weary. Let’s work and never tire. Let’s sing and never tire.
Happy birthday, my Bahamas! We thank God for you!
Happy independence all!
– The Rt. Rev’d Laish Z. Boyd,
bishop, Diocese of The Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands