Lahore, the "new evangelization" starts with schools and education
by Jibran Khan
So says Fr. Miguel Angel Ruiz, a Salesian missionary of Spanish origins, 10 years in the country. He stresses the value of study and education, for a greater presence of Catholics in society and at home. And praises indigenous priests: "people ready to give their lives to Christ".

Islamabad (AsiaNews) - The "new evangelization" must begin in schools, with the education of a Catholic population all too often relegated to the margins of society in Pakistan, unable to utilize their full potential and resources. This is what Fr. Miguel Angel Ruiz tells AsiaNews, a Salesian missionary of Spanish origins, one of the founders and promoters of the Don Bosco Technical Institute in Lahore, the city in which he has lived and worked for 10 years. Because the task of spreading the word of God, says the priest, starts "in the classrooms of the school" and through "a network of interconnected institutions", which could open the door "to the boys and girls who are unable to afford the costs of education".

Fr. Ruiz talks about the decade spent in Lahore, in Punjab, as "the most significant experience" of his life "as a Salesian and priest ". Born in Spain, aged only 11 he entered a Salesian Seminary in the country where he did most of his studies. In 1996 he was transferred to Manila, Philippines, to study theology; in March 1998 he took perpetual vows and two years later in Cebu, in the Philippines, his priestly ordination.

The Spanish missionary was then chosen as a member of the first Salesian delegation to Pakistan, a Muslim majority nation where Christians are often victims of persecution. He describes the first years as "pioneering" and arduous, like every beginning of adventure, with enormous difficulties, but over time the fruits "of intense work and prayer" have emerged. He immediately dedicated himself to education placing himself at the service of young people and the poorest, with a special predilection for Christians ".

The mmissionary is not "a volunteer" like those of an NGO or non-profit organization, clarifies the priest, we must always put "the task to evangelize at the center of our work". This "key" enables them to create institutions, organizations or educational centers like the Don Bosco Technical Institute in Lahore (pictured with some students), a " long sought after dream " and one that over time has resulted in a reality of excellence. A feat made possible above all by the testimony of the older priests ", who at different times and in difficult conditions, have been able to sow the seeds of faith.

He spares no criticism of the Church's approach to Pakistan, which seems to have overlooked "the educational issue" of its people, relegated for too long to the sidelines. "And it's not just a question of money," says Fr. Miguel Angel Ruiz, if compared to investment in "social projects" . But now, he adds, it's time to consider to the issue of youth education a "priority".

Finally a thought for the work of the Salesians in the Asian country-soon to celebrate the ordination of their first native born priest- a service bent on mission, increasingly marked by the development of "local human resources". "In Pakistan, concludes Fr. Ruiz-we are fortunate to be able to count on people ready to give their lives to Christ. I am grateful for the work done for 10 years alongside people who deserve to become an instrument of mission, such as priests or religious ".

 

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