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Adopt ‘panyard’ principles:

Foster culture of discipline, teamwork says Archbishop

In a candid and wide-ranging interview on The Catholic News’  television programme Altos, Archbishop Charles Jason Gordon shared his insights on pressing societal issues and the need for a renewed focus on boundaries and discipline within Trinidad and Tobago.

On the programme itself, he expressed his appreciation for the quality of the show, “I love the slants that you take and the way in which the Church comes alive. One might say that the text lifts off The Catholic News and has a dynamism and a life that is different as it moves to Altos.”

Archbishop Gordon expressed mixed feelings about Trinidad and Tobago’s 47 years as a republic and 61 years of independence. He sees many missed opportunities, “Part of me feels we’ve had so many lost opportunities… The kind of budgets we’ve spent in the last 47 years or 61 years, we should be way ahead of where we are right now in a whole host of things.”

He specified the opportunities for development, especially in education and marginalised communities, noting that investing in these areas could address the root causes of issues like crime.

“Because if we get the development of the communities right, and we get the education model in those communities right, then we dry up the sources of gangs, of illicit guns, illicit drugs, human trafficking. We just dry that up. Because we give people alternatives,” he said.

The Archbishop did not mince words when discussing the alarming murder rate in Trinidad and Tobago. He noted, “We’re in the top 10 in the world, per capita. There’s no excuse.” He pointed out that this issue is deeply rooted and nurtured over the course of five decades, adding, “This has been nurtured for 50 years… you can’t have an adolescent perspective to life, to liberty, to freedom, and expect to have an adult nation.”

He underscored the need for strong boundaries and discipline, comparing it to parenting. He said, “If you’re permissive with your children, you expect chaos. If you give reasonable and strong boundaries… you have a lot more conversation and give and take.”

The Archbishop described panyards as models of national development, where excellence is pursued relentlessly. He noted that pan players, who dedicate themselves to their craft, work as a cohesive team, and take personal responsibility for their performance, serve as exemplars of discipline and community-building.

He suggested that if the principles observed in panyards could be extended to the broader society, particularly within educational institutions, a transformational shift could take place.

By fostering a culture of discipline, teamwork, and individual responsibility, panyards demonstrate a pathway toward developing a more harmonious and productive society, ultimately benefitting Trinidad and Tobago as a whole.

During the Archbishop’s first interview on Altos, he shed light on a pressing issue that emerged because of the Covid-19 pandemic—its traumatic impact on children, particularly those residing in underprivileged households.

He voiced a concern shared by many experts: the prolonged periods of parental absence due to work or other constraints left numerous children unsupervised for extended durations. In cramped living conditions, where families reside in small houses, the lack of parental guidance and supervision exacerbated the trauma experienced by these children.

Recognising the severity of this problem, the Archbishop called for a multifaceted approach to support children and help them recover. He said, “When a child has been traumatised and he/she comes back, the first thing we should have done is resocialise. The second thing that we should have done is trauma intervention. The third thing we should have done is renormalise what post-Covid looks like for children.”

Regarding the Church-run children’s homes, Archbishop Gordon confirmed that the committee submitted reports and provided constructive feedback on areas needing improvement. All of the homes have been registered with the government.

Additionally, work has been done with the homes “to make sure that the standards go up and we’re working with them in training to ensure that we keep high and consistent standards,” Archbishop Gordon said.