National Coordination of Indigenous Pastoral Ministry (CONAPI)
Panamanian Episcopal Conference
Panama City, Panama
"That you may have life in abundance" (John 10:10)
Open Letter to Panamanian Catholics and all men and women of goodwill in our country.
Panama, February 20, 2011.
Dear Brothers and Sisters
The deepest desire that we possess as human beings is to be happy. It is what unites us all, without exception. So we speak from the heart to all Catholics and non-Catholics, believers and nonbelievers, indigenous and non indigenous.
We who sign this letter have received the incredible gift from our Loving God to serve and accompany the indigenous peoples of Panama. They are "minorities", true, but enriched by their wealth of multiculturalism that makes up our country. With them and for them we have made our option and from there we speak.
During years of living amongst and listening to our indigenous brothers and sister, we have learned to appreciate, love and respect and love what is commonly called “the environment” today – but which original peoples call called their lands, forests, rivers.
An indigenous Kuna said: "To save Mother Earth means to save ourselves as individuals, as people ... We must make the suffering of our Mother Earth, our suffering and our action" ("Land of all, land of peace", No. 14.7, 1988).
Our destination, not only that of indigenous peoples, is united and marked by what we do or fail to do with the environment.
"We need an alliance between humans and the environment ... Authentic and integral development is centered in love ... Nature is an expression of a project of love and truth ... To work on this is a requirement of justice and charity" ( Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate, 7, 19, 23, 48, 50).
For a long time, we have witnessed the greed of a few who see in the land, rivers, and forests as little more than objects to make money, market goods. On ancestral territories inhabited by indigenous and in other parts of the country, large hydroelectric dams have been built, open pit mineral mine have been opened (or attempted to be open). All this, in place of bringing true human development, is harming us, causing more human suffering.
These projects (current or future) are divided us, making us deeply distrust one another and have open wounds difficult to close.
We believe in dialogue, but dialogue that is based on respect, with genuine participation, which has as its base the acceptance of our cultural and political differences. A dialogue that has as main objective the abundant life for all (Jn 10:10).
Our destinies are inextricably linked; we cannot separate the provinces and indigenous comarcas. We must work together, without divisions, accepting the reality of pluralism, even asking for forgiveness, building a better country for all without distinction. This is the invitation for all our brothers and sisters.
It is important that we have the attitude of Jesus: his invitation to compassion and mercy (Luke 6:36, 10:30-36, 15:11-32), as well as his very clear words about the divisions that we make as human beings that do not allow us to be more human (Luke 16:19-31). Such attitudes and words are our compass, our guide.
This is our faith, this is our vocation: I was suffering, hungry, imprisoned, persecuted ... and you supported me, accompanied me, defended me, stayed with me ... (Matthew 25:31-46).
May our Loving God who is Father and Mother of all peoples continue to bless us!
+ Bishop Anibal Saldaña Santamaría, OAR -Bishop of Bocas del Toro
Rev. Carlos de la Cruz,osa - David by Diocese
Rev. Freddy Ramirez B., CMF - Diocese of Colón-Kuna Yala
Rev. Felix A. Lama, CMF - Archdiocese of Panama by
Rev. Niscasio - Diocese of Santiago Miranda
Rev. Joseph T. González, OAR - Prelature of Bocas del Toro
Rev. Jorge Sarsanedas, SJ - Secretary of CONAPI