The Diocese of Paramaribo held a special liturgy filled with prayer, praise, singing, and dancing at a packed St Peter and Paul’s Minor Basilica in celebration of Maroon Day, a national holiday, October 10.
The Day of the Maroons is observed in commemoration of the signing of a peace agreement between the Maroon tribe N’Dyuka and the colonial government of Suriname on October 10, 1760. It was only made a national holiday in 2011.
The celebration began with a festive street procession from the Chancellor’s Office courtyard, located a block away from the cathedral, according to a report from OMHOOG, the diocesan weekly. Maroons participated, dressed in traditional clothing embroidered in brightly coloured pangis (a pangi is a piece of traditional cloth that can be worn in many ways) with words of praise in various Maroon tribal languages.
Among those in attendance were Bishop Emeritus Wilhelm de Bekker, government ministers, members of parliament and Maroon village chiefs.
In his homily, chief celebrant and Vicar General Fr Esteban Kross elaborated on the issue of land rights and the service’s theme Land rights and the Care for our Common Home. Fr Kross said everyone should respect the land because it is “home, workplace, pharmacy and recreational facility, and thus it should not be a place to corrupt…”
Fr Kross touched on climate change referring to the devastating Hurricanes Irma and Maria and Suriname was more frequently experiencing dangerous winds. It was as if “a doti e bigin dyeme (as if the land sighs)”.
Fr Kross appealed to the faithful to change their minds and attitudes as “an annoying greed changes the mind of people, making them lie and choosing the wrong path”. He continued, “They misuse the respect they receive to get rich fast. It’s like cancer in the body of Suriname,” he said.
The youth captured the theme in a dramatic presentation, highlighting the story of the fight of the Maroon tribes for land rights two centuries ago. The story concluded with young people seeking higher education by studying law to advise the village elders and chiefs.
The Prayers of the Faithful were offered in various tribal languages, Dutch and French, and for the Presentation of Gifts, a drummer accompanied women who danced towards the sanctuary from the entrance, carrying baskets of fruit on their heads.