In June of 2022, a solidarity campaign was launched to acquire kits through the Catholic Church in Panama. Faced with this ecclesial call, the parish of “Nuestra Señor de Candelaria” in La Pintada Coclé, made a collection with the peasant communities and families. With this motivation, the amount of $1,200.00 USD was collected. The parish designated a team for the mission to drop off the kits in Darién.

On October 11, the designated parish team went to the capital of Panama to buy the different elements to make the kit, including: plastic flip-flops, soap, toothbrush, towel and bag. In total, some 192 kits were prepared for the migrants, a small proportion of the population that on average is crossing the Darien jungle. The data is alarming, with more than 154,000 migrants who have passed through this jungle as of September this year; and for this day, October 12, social networks reported that there were about 10,000 migrants waiting to cross Necoclí, Colombia to the jungle of Panama.

On October 12, we were a team of 8 people, including members of the FNM and the La Pintada parish. Upon arrival in Zapallal, Darién, we were surprised to find that the government, through the border military (SENAFRON), had evicted 85 migrants from the facilities of the Zapallal chapel, arguing that it is not a appropriate place to receive migrants. Since July 17 to the present, the Christian community of Zapallal has been attending to the migrants who arrive from the jungle. In total, they have assisted some 8,000 migrants. This parish is administered by the Claretians. Fr. Eric received us and shared how the work is done. The kitchen team includes Migdalia, Marlenis, Esther, Chela, Marta, Gladys, Vicky, Ángela, Alicia. There are other young volunteers on this team who receive the migrants.

FSince we arrived we saw some tired faces, with pain and hope. Even when there is a ban on receiving migrants, they continue to arrive. Most of them took between 10 and 12 days to cross the Darien Gap. These migrants describe it as a terrifying journey because of both wild animals and assaults.

The FNM in Panama continues to seek, together with the Clamor Network, to intervene so that the State improves the conditions and passage of migrants through Panama. The are many different types of complaints about human rights violations against migrants in official shelters in the Darien Gap. SENAFRON’s military security is hindering the migrants who are in the Zapallal refuge from being treated with dignity. Right now there are many challenges for migrants on the Darien journey to the US.

The FNM aims to be good news for the kingdom of God in this sacred territory that is the land of Central America.

René Arturo Flores, OFM.