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Praying with Refugees from Colombia
01 April 2011

Colombian refugees who cross the border into the Darien Jungle of Panama are confined to border towns. (Sergi Camera/ Jesuit Refugee Service)

Washington DC, April 1, 2011 – In this Lenten season, we bring to mind Christ’s Way of the Cross, which begins with the call to "remain here and keep watch with me." (Matt 26:38)

Let us keep watch with Christ as we pray with and for our brothers and sisters who've fled their homes in Colombia to the jungle of Panama, only to be met with restricted rights, denied the freedom of movement, and provided only limited access to material assistance.

Reflections for prayer

Each year thousands of Colombians are forced to flee into surrounding countries from the devastating effects of a 50-year-long armed conflict, destructive aerial fumigation programs, and land restitution issues. The Colombian refugees who cross the border into the Darien Jungle of Panama need permission to travel outside the immediate vicinity of Jaque — a three mile radius — for any purpose, including emergency healthcare. This extremely limited mobility guarantees that those with PTH status are relegated to extraordinarily unstable lives. 

Their daily plight reflects the 14th Station of the Cross, when Jesus was laid in the tomb. Surely the faithful followers of Christ ached with despair when their hope and light of the world was taken away and hidden within the confines of a final resting place. Likewise, when the men and women seeking refuge in Panama’s jungle are faced with inhumane and repressive conditions in the 'prison villages,' surely they too ache with despair as their hope of a brighter future has been dashed the realities of their land of "refuge," which in many ways forms a living tomb.

A Colombian refugee in Panama shares this sentiment:

"In the Bible they say there were cities of refuge...I am here, in Panama, to seek refuge. I never intended to drop anchor here, but here I am, and now they will not let me go on to Panama City...Here I cannot give what I have to give."  

And yet, as Fr. Karl Rahner states, "Wherever suffering is present in the world, there the cross of Christ is mysteriously present…" It is by this cross that light pierces through the darkness as those suffering wait in hope for the joyful coming of the Lord.

Let us pray for Colombian refugees in Panama and surrounding countries, that they may experience the presence of the resurrected Christ, and that it may grant them the strength to maintain their hope for resurrection from the confines of their own living tombs.

Join us in reflection:

Scripture for reading
Click for full verseMatthew 26:36-41 

Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, "Sit here while I go over there and pray." …

Then he said to them, "My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch with me."

He advanced a little and fell prostrate in prayer, saying,

"My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will." When he returned to his disciples he found them asleep.

He said to Peter, "So you could not keep watch with me for one hour? Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."