Sunday a week ago, we were asked one of my favorite questions: “How can we pray for you?” And my short-sighted, narrow mind spawned a predictable response- my health, my support, my awareness, my, my, my… Not that there is anything wrong with praying for those things, and not to diminish the importance of those things in my little world, but being asked that question by a sanctuary full of people, I really wanted (in hindsight) to lay something big on the table, something that desperately needs prayer, something that is drastically affecting the work of the church in Panama and beyond, something so far out of our hands that divine intervention seems to be the only answer, something that has made Satan laugh and Jesus weep since long before I was born.
That something is the armed conflict in Colombia. In the last half century 600,000 individuals have died as a result, and upwards of 3 million have been displaced, including Wounaan and Emberá that now reside in Panama. Our friends.
“You have three options,” a 5-year refugee and now church member in Vista Alegre, Panama was told, “grow coca, leave, or die.” He and his family left. FARC (the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia- the largest faction) guerillas continue to move freely in and around the Panama-Colombia border and have been a deadly thorn in the side of villagers and mission workers for decades.
Now, the Colombian government is once again engaged in peace talks with the FARC, and peace marches have been held this month in cities throughout Colombia demonstrating tremendous public support for an end to the bloodshed. Rather than try to decipher the complex social and political climate that has resulted from this hodgepodge of ideologies and economic interests, rather than trying to figure this one out, it seems like the best thing to do is pray. Pray against pride, pray against greed, pray against envy. Pray that individuals would respond to conviction and trade their swords for plowshares. Pray for Peace.
This week, Thursday, May 2nd is National Day of Prayer for the U.S. of A., a tradition which pre-dates the country itself, having been first established in 1775 by the Continental Congress as “a day of publick [sic] humiliation, fasting, and prayer” to seek God´s favor for the nascent country. Subsequent wars and difficulties prompted the nation´s leaders to return to this practice before it was signed into law in 1952.
I invite you to pray (and fast if you like) with me this Thursday for a peace agreement to be reached between the Colombian government and the forces which oppose them. I also ask for us to pray for transparency, clarity, and wisdom for the leaders which make decisions affecting this situation, be them Colombian, U.S., or otherwise. And I ask that we pray for the individuals in the conflict zones, that they would respond to conviction and choose peace and life over conflict and death.
Blessings and Strength in Solidarity,