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Parang lovers should welcome Venezuelan refugees

Archbishop Gordon (centre) and Fr Black (back row, right) pose for a photo with Eucharistic ministers and altar servers from Santa Rosa, Arima Parish. Photo: Gerard-Paul Wanliss

Parang lovers attending the National Parang Association of Trinidad and Tobago (NPATT) 2018 festival were encouraged to search their hearts and assess their reactions and thoughts to migrants for it would be “hypocritical” to celebrate Parang music and not welcome Venezuelan refugees.

“Are we being a people of hospitality and welcome or are we causing scandal by closing our hearts and our doors to people who are in our country at this time?” Archbishop Jason Gordon asked as he delivered the homily at a Mass that preceded the festival’s launch September 29 at the Arima Velodrome. The festival, which culminates January 5, 2019 had as its theme From Nazareth to Bethlehem. Fr Dwight Black OP concelebrated the Mass with the Archbishop.

Over 200 years ago, our Venezuelan brothers and sisters brought with them two great gifts: an agricultural boom and Parang—music that is now an integral part of T&T’s culture, the Archbishop said. “…And if we celebrate that, brothers and sisters, we have to celebrate that the more recent arrivals from the same land will bring gifts to us and 200 years from now we will celebrate something of what they have brought to us and we will treat it then as if it was normal whereas right now we are treating it as if it’s something they shouldn’t be doing….We like the Parang music but we don’t want nobody from that place to come back here now,” he said.

Archbishop Gordon further asked those gathered: “When they came across you think they were treated like how we treat them now? They were treated better then or worse now? When they came we didn’t say ‘What business they doing here?’ What did we do?”

Parang music, the Archbishop explained is a form of proclaiming the Good News of Jesus. It is built on the festivals of Pentecost, Easter and Christmas. Festivals highlight the importance of a particular season, time and aspect of life. Similarly, the Parang festival is a reminder that T&T is a multinational country with DNA “from the four corners of the earth”.

Archbishop Gordon stated that the Gospel reading of the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time was very “interesting” as it relates to scandals. “If you cause the little ones to stumble, to fall, to lose their faith…. it’s better they take you in the middle of the ocean and tie a millstone around your neck and drop you overboard.” He explained that this “graphic statement” suggests that causing someone to stumble is one of the greatest offenses against Jesus.

“When we as the older ones set a bad example and we do what is wrong and make it right causing other people to do wrong things…. that is what scandal is.” He continued, “And you know we’ve had our fair share of scandal. And how did it make you feel?” He observed that the scandals may cause Christians to stumble, to question, to doubt one’s faith or to doubt what God said in the Bible. “That’s why scandal is so bad,” he said.

NPATT President Alicia Jaggasar delivered remarks at the launch. She said that the NPATT Executive heard the “cries” from the hearts of all the parranderos and Parang lovers to take Parang back to its roots.

“We recognised that we could not do it alone hence the birth of our tagline ‘I am Parang. We are Parang’. Believing hearts, clean hearts, honest hearts, loving hearts, faithful hearts took the leap of faith to produce this Festival 2018.” Jaggasar thanked a number of individuals and organisations who worked tirelessly to ensure that the evening was possible.

Among those present at the launch were the Minister of Community Development, Culture and the Arts Nyan Gadsby-Dolly, Arima Mayor Lisa Morris-Julian and Chief Ricardo Bharath Hernandez of the Santa Rosa First Peoples Community. – KJ