Both the Rastafarian and the African Panamanian Muslim communities reported societal discrimination toward their members due to their appearance. They stated potential employers tended to discriminate, especially if the interviewers were evangelicals.
In July Camilo Barnett, a Rastafarian, was denied access to Banco Universal, a local private bank, because of his tam hat, despite passing the bank’s security screening and receiving a call from the bank asking him to pick up a check. The bank officer who had initially called Barnett also refused him entry but offered to transfer the money to another bank’s account. Barnett subsequently filed a complaint with the local authorities, who fined the bank $1,000 (the maximum penalty) for applying old “right of admittance” practices now forbidden by law.
The African Panamanian Muslim community stated it enjoyed a good relationship with the Panamanian Arab Muslim community. African Panamanian Muslim leaders reported, however, that linguistic, cultural, and ethnic differences between the African Panamanian and Pakistani immigrant communities made it difficult for them to interact, despite sharing the same faith. According to one leader, Pakistanis reacted negatively to African Panamanian Muslim women when they went into the mosque on Avenida Mexico in Panama City, although no one denied them access.
The Ecumenical Committee of Panama, an interfaith committee made up of representatives of the Roman Catholic, Episcopal, Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Methodist, Evangelical, and Lutheran Churches, the Salvation Army, the Colon Islamic Congregation (Arab), and the Kol Shearith Reform Jewish Congregation, held two “Praying Journeys” in September and October. These events provided a coordination mechanism for interfaith activities and promoted mutual respect and appreciation among the various religious groups. The Panama City Muslim congregation (mainly from India and Pakistan) and the Orthodox Jewish Shevet Ahim and Beth El congregations did not join the committee, despite invitations.
On October 2, Roman Catholic Archbishop Jose D. Ulloa, Reform Jewish Rabbi Gustavo Kraselnik, Episcopal Bishop Julio Murray, Muslim Imam Mohammed Al Sayed, and Evangelical Reverend Rolando Hernandez co-signed a public letter entitled “Jews, Christians and Muslims: United for Peace and Human Dignity” in which they called for a stop to religious killings around the world by “religious extremists.” The letter also asked President Juan Carlos Varela and the National Assembly to maintain Panama’s role as a mediator during international conflicts.