Youth mission group ‘safe,’ returning home from Panama amid civil unrest – The Christian Post

The Christian Post
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A youth mission group from Seventh-day Adventist churches in Maryland is “safe” and returning home from southern Panama after being unable to leave a compound for more than a week due to social unrest over inflation in the country that links Central and South America.
Around 30 missionaries, including 17 teenagers and their chaperones, who had gone to Panama to help build school facilities, are now heading back home to Maryland.
“The mission group was able to make it through the protest blockade during a brief window early this morning and are now safe at a secure location where they are making flight arrangements to travel home,” Evan Knott, director of communications for the Chesapeake Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, said Saturday, The Washington Post reported.
Knott added that the missionaries were scheduled to return Tuesday, although “it could take a little bit of time” for travel arrangements to be made, according to The Washington Times.
The missionaries had been staying at a compound in the Las Lajas area in Chiriquí Province’s San Félix District near the Costa Rican border since July 7 but had been cut off from the area where they had planned to help build a school.
Those in the mission group are from the New Hope Church in Fulton, Maryland; the Atholton Seventh-day Adventist Church in Columbia; Spencerville Church in Silver Spring and the Adventist Church in Frederick, Maryland, all under the Chesapeake Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.
Protests erupted in Panama on July 1 against inflation, labor rights and increasing fuel prices.
The protesters are demanding higher wages, lower commodity prices and the removal of supply chain bottlenecks, according to Forbes.
A U.S. State Department advisory warned that in light of ongoing protest activity, “the U.S. Embassy Panama City reminds U.S. Citizens in Panama to exercise caution near any large gatherings or protests and maintain situational awareness.”
The advisory added that there might be demonstrations to protest internal Panamanian issues or, more rarely, “manifestations of anti-U.S. sentiment.”
“While most demonstrations are non-violent, the Panamanian National Police have used tear gas and/or riot control munitions in response to demonstrations, particularly when roadways are blocked or aggression is used against the police,” the advisory stated. 
Last October, 17 members of a missionary group — comprising mostly Americans and five children and sent by Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries — were kidnapped in Haiti. While a handful of the missionaries were released due to medical concerns, the rest escaped their captors in December after a ransom was paid. 

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