Parroquia San Cristóbal is located in the Parque Lefevre neighborhood of Panama City. It is a neighborhood in transition; many of the homes are being sold and converted into talleres or work shops. At the moment there is an equal amount of family homes and talleres. It is also a neighborhood which is experiencing an increase in crime, as is much of the country.
We hold our Vestry meetings on the second Thursday of the month, and we meet on the church patio, because the breeze will blow through there. As soon as we get the rest of the permisos we can start using the new hall, which has a Salon de Reuniones. I hope we get those permisos soon, as it is getting too dangerous to be out on the patio at night.
Last night at around 7:00 pm, as the Vestry was discussing the up-coming Prayer Breakfast, a car drove by quickly and suddenly we heard gunfire. Everybody immediately dived under the table. The car drove off and I wasn't sure that we HAD heard gunfire; I thought that it may have been firecrackers, as the kids in my neighborhood (Los Pinos/Chanis) are always firing off firecrackers. We returned to our discussion, everyone a bit nervous, when we heard some more noise farther down the street, where Calle Decima meets Via España. We were pretty sure it was gunfire that time. Some people came running up the road and confirmed our fears. We tried to continue our meeting as the police arrived next door but decided to adjourn.
It was a drive-by shooting, and a young man of some 20 years was killed. According to what I heard on the street, the young man had been selling drugs for someone and decided to keep the money, so the Drug Lords took care of him. He was killed in front of the taller across the street from the parish and right next door to Instituto Episcopal San Cristóbal. Organized crime has been increasing in Central America and Panamá. Being next door to Colombia, a nation which has been steeped in political and drug violence for some forty years really isn't helping, either. It seems that, for some reason, drug violence tends to increase when a right-wing government is in power around here. Of course, if the druggies in the U.S.A. would clean up their acts it would probably slow down most of the drug violence here in Central America and even in North America (like THAT'S gonna happen!).
I hope to meet with the other pastors in the neighborhood in the next two weeks to see what we can do to curb violence in our barriada. For years the police have pretty much avoided this neighborhood, but they have increased their presence recently, so perhaps we can all work together to make some changes and protect our people. Keep us in your prayers.