“We are happy that God granted us this chance” to be at WYD, says Pakistani brother, accompanying one boy and one girl from each of the 7 dioceses of his homeland.
Brother Adil Ashraf is a 32-year-old Dominican from Pakistan who is volunteering at World Youth Day in Lisbon. He is part of around seven Pakistani volunteers who are assisting WYD, and he has also been supporting the delegation of 30 priests, bishops, and young people that have come from his country.
In this group there are 14 young pilgrims, a boy and a girl from each of the seven dioceses of the country.
In Pakistan, a majority-Muslim country of around 231 million people, less than 1% of the population is Catholic. In his last year of theological studies, Brother Ashraf should be ordained next year and has shared with Aleteia how he will take the blessings he has received at WYD back to his home country.
How do you feel about being here at Lisbon World Youth Day?
Brother Ashraf: We are happy to be here at this international gathering. Whenever somebody meets us and we tell them we are from Pakistan they are extremely happy because they know the situation in our country. It is a blessed moment for us because we are able to be with the whole Church as Catholics; we are one. This is a good moment where all the universal Church comes together and prays to the Lord and Mother Mary.
We will take so many blessings from here, especially from the different speeches of the Pope, the cardinals, and the bishops. Then we can apply what we hear to our local Church in Pakistan. We can show this unity, that in Christ we are one. We are happy that God granted us this chance to be here and to bring back this great witness of Christ.
We are also happy to be here because it is quite difficult to get a visa for Pakistanis. I hope that in the future the embassies will be able to arrange to accommodate more people. In Pakistan many people applied to come to this WYD but couldn’t get their visa. Yesterday we saw Pope Francis and everybody was so happy. There are people in Pakistan who also want to see the Pope but there is no opportunity for him to come to Pakistan. So I hope in the future embassies can play a vital role and accommodate more people.
What is it like being a Catholic in Pakistan?
Brother Ashraf: The faith is very rich in Pakistan. There are many Christians that are very poor, that are starving, but whenever you ask them how they are, they will say they are happy and thank God for what he gives them.
Christians in Pakistan sometimes face difficulties but either way we are happy that we are able to give witness of Jesus Christ. We are like salt, like a light, as Jesus said we are the light of the world. We can give witness through our attitude and our Catholic teachings in different places such as offices or factories. There is a famous quote in Pakistan that Christians never steal or tell a lie! This is a good sign that we are being truthful witnesses to Jesus and taking his light to others.
Why did you decide to join the path to priesthood?
Brother Ashraf: I went to a missionary Catholic boys school in my hometown and the principal was a Presentation Sister. She always encouraged us: boys, come to be priests! Also in my home parish there were Mother Teresa’s sisters, [the Missionaries of Charity,] and so I would go to their convent and they also encouraged me to become a priest. I also had a devotion to Mother Mary since I was a child. It was a good life, from my childhood I had it in my heart that I could maybe become a priest.
As I grew up I also served at the altar, which increased my desire to become a priest. I had also been baptized by Dominican fathers, who were the ones working in my parish. So I also had a devotion to St. Dominic since I was a child, which is why I joined the Dominican congregation. I started the basic formation for the first time when I was 19-years-old.