Panama 2019/WYD: A world meeting of indigenous youths

The World Youth Day (WYD) in Panama will also see the indigenous face of the Church. Over one thousand indigenous youths from world Countries are expected to attend the Indigenous World Youth Day (EMJI) that will take place a few days before the WYD (January 17 to 21) in Soloy, Comarca Ngäbe-Bugle, Diocese of David, Panama.

The indigenous face of the Church will also be seen in the WYD in Panama. Over a thousand young indigenous people from different parts of the world are expected to take part in the day with Pope Francis, scheduled from January 22nd to January 27th 2019 in the Central-American Country. The Papal gathering will be preceded by the Indigenous World Youth Day (Encuentro Mundial de la Juventud Indigena – EMJI) that will take place from January 17 to 21 in the Ngobe territory of Soloy, in the Diocese of David in western Panama.

Faith meeting. The EMJI is an initiative of the Bishops responsible for the Pastoral Care of indigenous peoples. The bishops, following their meeting in Chiapas, Mexico in 2016, after the WYD in Krakow, thus wished to link this gathering to the WYD 2019. “A thousand young people from various original peoples of the world will participate in the EMJI. Together they will reflect and celebrate their faith in Christ, starting from the thousand-year-old richness of our cultures. It will be an opportunity to respond to the invitation of Pope Francis to youth to be grateful for the history of our peoples and courageous in the face of the challenges that surround us to move forward full of hope in the construction of another possible world”, the bishops said.

The logo. The EMJI logo encompasses all the aspects of the meeting. It depicts, under a traditional straw hut, the symbol of the Cross, of cocoa and corn, a chameleon and roots solidly bound to the earth. “The Cross” – the organisers said – the central symbol of our Christian faith, invites us to commit ourselves as young people following the example of Jesus, the fullness of hope for our peoples. The penca house symbolises the unity of the community that walks together.

Cocoa and corn are the traditional sacred fruits of many Central-American peoples. We take cocoa at important moments in the life of the community in a spirit of solidarity, like true brothers and sisters, members of a single family. The roots of the plant symbolise our respect for Mother Earth that gives us life and also symbolises the great history of our peoples. The chameleon reminds us to respect all of God’s creation in its great diversity. We commit ourselves as young people to maintain the intimate relationship with the creation of God as a legacy of our forefathers.”

Following in the wake of Laudato si’. Soloy, in the county of Ngäbe-Bugle, is the largest indigenous region in Panama. It is easily accessible by car although most inland, uncontaminated areas, can only be reached on foot or on horseback.
This is what the indigenous youths will do in order to enjoy the biodiversity characterising the Jebai Valley, from the “Cascada de la Tulivieja” to the banks of River “Fonseca.”

From January 17 to 21, EMJI pilgrims will gather in prayer and will listen to the personal testimonies of youths engaged in the defence and the protection of land from the culture of waste. The murals they will create will stand as a reminder of the urgency to protect the natural environment, they will visit villages and ritual grottos, they will participate in a traditional celebration officiated by the Maya delegation and they will gather in a plant nursery where they will prepare 5,000 scions that will be planted later when the rainy season begins. It will be an eco-friendly meeting with zero impact: “the young indigenous pilgrims will be given a metal thermos to be filled with spring water and at drinking water stations. In this way plastic bottles will not be used. The food will be wrapped in ‘pumpkin containers’ and bijao leaves. Thus, disposable dishes will be avoided.

At the end of their meeting in Soloy, the young participants will continue their pilgrimage to Panama City to attend the WYD and the papal events.