Panama Mennonites request prayer for land struggle

Sharing of stories and concerns in one of the Wounaan villages. Photo by Henk Stenvers
Release date: 
Thursday, 9 April 2015

Panama – A request for prayer for land struggle was the main request that a Mennonite World Conference delegation heard in a February 2015 visit with church and indigenous community leaders in Panama.

Leaders of the MWC member church, Iglesia Evangélica Unida Hermanos Menonitas de Panamá (United Evangelical Church: Mennonite Brethren in Panama), invited the MWC delegation to inform them about the long struggle to have legally establed titles to ancestral land recognized and enforced.

Despite existing constitutional guarantees of land ownership, the government is doing little to prevent illegal settlers from taking land, logging and selling trees – especially the cocobolo tree – and using the land for herding.

The delegation included four persons jointly sponsored by the MWC Peace and Deacons Commissions – Joji Pantoja of the Philippines, Jack Suderman of Canada, Gladys Siemens of Brazil and Henk Stenvers of the Netherlands.

They met for a day in Panama City with church leaders who are also providing leadership to the National Congress of the Wounaan people. And then they visited three villages by boat, timing their departures and arrivals according to the rising tide in the inland rivers.

In each village there was an evening worship service and an overnight stay. In the morning the delegation heard stories of how encroachments on indigenous land are causing many to lose hope and patience because it seems to them that their pleas for help are going unnoticed.

The delegation heard repeatedly a resolute belief in the power of prayer and advocacy by the global faith community. The attached prayer reflects the specific prayer requests that were named in the many conversations in which the delegation engaged.

“They understand – at least in part – the limits of our capabilities,” noted Suderman in his draft of the delegation’s report. “They also understand the power of God in God’s praying people. The idea of allowing the story to become known is, in itself, the highest hope of the leadership. There is a profound sense that truth will eventually win out, but that it needs to be exposed and become known.”

Church leaders also asked for help in training of leaders in areas such as conflict resolution, identity formation, restorative justice and nonviolent strategies. Further, they asked for advocacy  in international forums such as the United Nations, the Organization of American States, and the government of Panama.

MWC release



The Commission of Diaconia and Peace of the Iglesia Evangélica Unida Hermanos Menonitas de Panamá (United Evangelical Church: Mennonite Brethren in Panama) has requested that God’s people, around the world, pray this prayer on their behalf.                                                                            

Creator God of Justice, Peace, Love and Mercy:
You know the struggles of your people.
You know the struggles of the Wounaan People of Panama: a struggle for justice related to their Ancestral Domain amid the continuing invasions of those lands.  
We pray to you.
We lament the ongoing loss of valuable resources of the Wounaan people.
We pray that the Government of Panama might act to secure the collective title to the land.
We pray to you for justice in the case of the three men who have been falsely accused and condemned to 20 years of prison due to their leadership in this struggle for land.
We pray for your justice in the legal processes led by their lawyer Leonidas Quiróz; processes that still seem to be without the sympathetic ears and hearts needed to resolve these struggles.
We pray for wisdom and patience for the local pastors and conference leaders of the United Evangelical Church: Mennonite Brethren of Panama.
We give thanks for their firm commitment to keeping this struggle free of violence.
We give thanks for their concerns for the life-giving flora and fauna created to secure life for generations to come.
We give thanks for their wisdom and patience.
We give thanks that they are your people and you are their God.
Thank you God for listening to our lament. Thank you for knowing the integrity of our hearts. Thank you that your will is the welfare of all your creation.
May your will be done.



In preparation for the Assembly, Kern Road Mennonite Church in South Bend, Indiana, is praying for specific concerns of the global Anabaptist churches. We will include this request and eloquent prayer. Our hearts go out to our brothers and sisters in Panama.

Bretheren, we are praying for you and standing with you in faith.

A few thoughts I hope will be helpful to you in your efforts to peacefully reside on your ancestral land.

1) Agenda 2030 and Agenda 21 have made it clear that the UN is not your ally in this struggle. They favor urbanization and megacities and have asked each member nation to produce and deliver plans to cleanse outliying areas of human settlements. This is an unfortunate fact that is easily verifiable on their own website and in their own public facing statements.

2) If you do not wish to resettle, then another productive strategy could be to welcome resettlers to help you peacefully hold the land. The country of paraguay invited mennonites in to hold the chaco when it was in border dispute with neighbor countries. The mennonites are still there and thriving (so I've heard).

3) There is a large and growing community of christian homesteaders, back to the land minded people, in the united states which have financial resources but few viable options to peaceful community due to deteriorating political and economic situation in the united states.

4) If you had a 1) vetting process (screen out those who do not share your core values) and a 2) development plan (border areas first) and a legal structure (3) 50 or 99 year land lease which would auto renew if their descendants were faithfully keeping consistent with your core values and being good (non-exploitative) neighbors, could bring in financial resources to develop and peacefully hold the areas most accessible to looters. The new comers would bring ideas and resources and some problems to be sure.

Where there are no oxen the stable is clean, but with the ox comes strength.

Pray for my mind because satan is fighting me in my mind. Pray that God will free me in my mind and thought thinking. Pray that my mind would stay on the Lord and Kingdom of God, Jamal.

Add new comment