The Afro-Panamanian Pastoral announced today that it will present to Pope Francis during his next visit to the Central American country a report on the situation of the Afro-descendant population in the country and in Latin America.
"Our intention is that we can get out of here with a document, a proclamation that can be heard by everyone, including the Pope himself," said the Executive Secretary of Communication of the Panamanian Episcopal Conference and member of the Afro-Panamanian Pastoral Ministry on Friday. Eunice Meneses
Meneses was one of those responsible for inaugurating the Afro-descendant WYD Forum, one of the events leading up to the World Youth Day (WYD), which will be held in Panama from January 22 to 27 and will bring together thousands of young people from everybody with the pontiff.
The forum, which runs until Sunday, brings together about 200 young people and religious leaders of African descent, who will analyze the current situation of the black population in health, education, work and justice.
"We are around 200 million Afro-descendants (in Latin America), of which 80% are in a situation of extreme poverty," said Meneses.
According to a 2015 UN report, 12.3% of the Afro-descendant population of Panama lives in poverty or in conditions of vulnerability.
In fact, the most depressed provinces of the country, Darién, Bocas del Toro and Colón, have the most black population.
The Afro-Panamanian Pastoral is an institution belonging to the Archdiocese of Panama, which brings together religious and parishioners of African descent from all over the country.
Forum attendees will also evaluate the status of demographic censuses in the region and discuss its importance as a tool for the creation of public policies that solve the problems of the black community.
"We have to make ourselves visible, because what is not seen and not spoken, does not exist," Meneses added.
According to the National Institute of Statistics and Census (INEC), in Panama there are currently 586,221 Afro-descendants, representing 14.9% of the total population.
The data does not convince the social movements, which are very critical of the state statistics because for them Afro-descendants represent at least a third of the total population.
WYD is one of the most important events of the Catholic Church, which is organized every three years and that is celebrated for the first time in Central America, a region that has only been visited by Pope John Paul II in 1983 and 1996.
The agenda of Pope Francis, which will arrive in the country on January 23, includes mass masses and meetings with the Panamanian Government and the Central American bishopric, as well as visits to a youth prison and a social shelter run by the Church.
The Panamanian Episcopal Conference reported in November that there are already 226,000 registered pilgrims and about 5,000 accredited journalists who will participate in the religious meeting.