When I was studying at IPA (Instituto Pan-Americano) during 1962-1965, the major TV stations in Panama would broadcast the Sunday mass from the Church of Cristo Redentor on top of one of the many hills of San Miguelito. I remember that nearby, there was an imposing metal statue of Jesus with his arms extended as if to embrace the world. I would say, it closely resembles the gigantic statue of el Cristo Redentor del Corcovado of Río de Janeiro in Brazil.
After several years, the TV broadcasts were made from other modern locations of Panama City, and the iconic statue lost its charm and faded into oblivion. No body spoke, or even remembered, that this structure existed in San Miguelito, specially the young generations of Panamanians.
On Sunday, December 13, 2009, my wife and I decided to find the whereabouts of this forgotten statue of San Miguelito. I could hardly remember where it was located, so I had to depend on my wife’s memory. She was right on the dot, and in less than 15 minutes, we were parking our car in front of the Iglesia de Cristo Redentor in San Miguelito. Once there, we asked a person there, where we could find the statue. He looked worried, and said, “If I were you, I would not go there. It’s not a safe place. Many persons have been mugged in this insecure place, and others have been killed.” “Please stay away from this place, it is considered una ‘zona roja’” (red zone, meaning a extremely dangerous place).
We followed his advice. While we approached the area from a respectable distance, a spokesman of the church whose name is Absalom, approached us and said he would accompany us to the safest place to view the statue. At approximately 200 feet away from a hill, infested with weeds, we saw the figure of Jesus Christ with his arms extended. Only he was looking in the opposite direction. I could only see his back.
Absalom explained that the area had been taken by local gangs and drug dealers. Even the wide walls of the church were painted with graffiti, representing the territorial claims of the gangs. Nobody dared to climb the hill to enjoy the view or visit the statue. Jesus was there, alone, ostracized by crime and drugs. We felt very sad of this situation. Absalom noticed our sorrow and gave us a small sermon about the absence of God in modern societies.
He said, the origin of violence, drugs, hatred, wars, gangs, and other social evils; originated by the vacuum of spiritual beliefs by the people. They have been hypnotized by the glare of consumerism. Greed was the energy propelling societies around the world. Family values have been forgotten. Father and mother have been displaced by grandfathers and grandmothers, and by local gangs. This was the new family of the XXIst century. The nuclear family of the Industrial Revolution has been crushed by new institutions created by capitalism with a barbarian face. In Spanish it’s called, “capitalismo salvaje.”
After listening to Absalom’s words of widsom for about half an hour, we prayed together holding hands. Then we departed homewards. Before leaving, I aventured taking a couple of photographs of the distant statue using my camera’s zoom feature. That was the best I could do, considering the aforementioned unfavorable circumstances. Here we go.
When we got home, we prayed together for our country, for our families and for our marriage. We were certain that without God in our lives, we were headed for chaos. Now that the Christmas Season is coming, we need God in the middle of the festivities. Christmas is not about Christmas trees, presents, lights, toy soldiers, spirits, parties, or Santa Claus. Christmas is about the birth of baby Jesus Christ in a humble manger who came to teach us the value of Love. Good Day.