05/06/2016, 14.07
PAKISTAN – VATICAN
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Persecuted journalist talks about the pain of having to leave his country to save his life

by Qaiser Felix

Qaiser Felix was a contributor to AsiaNews. Yesterday he told his story during the Prayer Vigil to "dry the tears." In Pakistan he used to tell the stories of the Christian minority, persecuted for their faith. He had to run when Islamic extremists threatened to kill his family. With the help of AsiaNews and Jesuit Fathers, he now lives and works in Venice.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - "It's over. Quit your work and leave the city. Save your family and run as fast as you can,” AsiaNews’ editor and other organisations advised Qaiser Felix to do.

A Pakistani journalist persecuted for his Christian faith, he told the story of his family and described the tragic fate of Pakistan’s Christian minority during yesterday’s prayer vigil to "Dry the tears” in St Peter’s.

Felix was a contributor to AsiaNews, writing about his country’s social conditions and that of persecuted Christians. However, when Islamic extremists threatened to kill his wife and children, he was forced to flee his homeland. He arrived in Rome and thanks to AsiaNews and the Centro Astalli, he was able to rescue his family and "reinvent” a new life for himself.

His address follows, ending in a plea not to abandon those many brothers and sisters who risk their lives to bear witness to the Gospel.

Holy Father, my name Qaiser Felix. In Pakistan I was a journalist for many years. I belong to the Catholic minority and my faith was at the core of all my work. I travelled to every region of my country to tell the difficult life Christians are forced to lead in Pakistan, discriminated by the law against blasphemy and often victims of brutal violence, even murder.

I loved my job. For me it was more than just a job to feed my family; it was my struggle. I wanted to give voice to the suffering of the persecuted Christian minority. That is why I felt so proud when in 2007 I received an international award from the Association of Catholic journalists, and became the national secretary for South Asia for the same association.

However, my articles and my growing fame brought me to the attention of some terrorist groups who considered my words an open attack on the country and Islam.

The first acts of intimidation and threats against my wife and children pushed me to ask for help from my agency’s editor and various organisations. They all gave me the same, direct and irrevocable answer: “It's over. Quit your work and leave the city. Save your family and run as fast as you can.”

It was the same news agency editor who organised my departure for Rome. So I suddenly found myself in a foreign country, far from the people dearest to me.

In Italy I cannot practice my profession as a journalist because it is too hard to get my diploma recognised and getting a qualification is too difficult. Still, I did not give up.

At the beginning it was very hard. My wife and my two children were left in Pakistan; it was not possible to bring them with me. I desperately needed to send them money.

Here in Italy I had to reinvent my life, and I had to wait to write again. I accepted odd jobs in Rome. I attended training courses and through the Centro Astalli I visited schools to tell my refugee story to secondary school students.

Then in 2011, after more than two very difficult years, I was able to reunite with my wife and two children. When we hugged I realised that the worst was over, that together we could make it. And so we did.

Today, thanks to Jesuit priests, my wife and I work at a student college in Venice. The children, who are now teenagers, go to school and are good at it. They learnt Italian quickly and well, and now their future is here.

To experience persecution and the fear of death is a terrible thing, especially for my children. Faith in the darkest hours was my lifeline. My colleagues and friends at AsiaNews and the Centro Astalli were a providential Godsend to me.

In such an important moment, allow me to remember those who stayed behind in my country: the many fellow Christians who are persecuted, the men and women who every day risk their lives because of human rights violations and persecution. Do not leave them alone; they need our prayers and our help.

I am here today also for them to bear witness to the life and the greatness of God the Merciful. Thank you, Holy Father!

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