Daniel Bashir comes from the diocese of Karachi. He is the national president of a movement of lay missionaries in Pakistan. He hopes “the universal Church will listen and welcome the demands of us young people”. He wants to spread the Gospel by “one’s deeds” and pray “for the fundamentalists”.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Daniel Bashir, 28, is a young Pakistani from Karachi. He calls for “a conversion of hearts and minds" to create harmony between religions. At the same time, people must "learn to respect one another" to create a peaceful society.
He spoke to AsiaNews in Rome, on the sidelines of the pre-synodal meeting that brought together 300 young people from around the world.
A recent graduate from medical school, he is the National Youth Coordinator of Jesus Youth, a movement of lay missionaries in Pakistan. He was the only Pakistani at the meeting.
"For me it was a grace. I have been blessed twice: for being here and for having had the opportunity of meeting Pope Francis. I thank God for this great gift."
"I hope the universal Church will listen and welcome the demands of us young people," he said speaking about the purpose of the pre-synodal meeting.
Daniel, who comes from a Catholic family, is about to enter the seminary. "My family wanted me to finish my studies in medicine,” he explained. “Finally, in June I will begin my religious training."
The young man feels blessed by God, and still cannot fathom how he "could have hugged the Holy Father twice: the first time at the opening of the meeting, the second during Mass on Palm Sunday in St Peter's Square.”
“They asked me to be part of the group that went up to the altar to deliver the young people’s document to the pope. I started to cry with joy and at the end I also asked Pope Francis to take a selfie. I was so excited. I turned to the Lord and gave him thanks."
Daniel stressed the ecumenical aspect that distinguished the work of young people. "We were more than 300. There were not only Catholics, but also Muslims, Jews, Sikhs and Hindus. It was a unique opportunity offered by the Catholic Church to young people from all over the world to think and question their faith, and face the problems that exist in various cultures, religions and societies."
The proceedings were inspired by “the pope’s words. He told us very clearly: 'You are the youth of the world and the young are the prophets'. So, he invited us to be prophets in our own countries. He also admitted that in the past the Church had never spoken about young people. Instead now, for the first time, the Church was speaking with young people and is willing to listen to our voice."
The document presented to the pontiff "highlights the difficulties and challenges of young people today. These are different challenges according to countries and societies. As far as I am concerned, the major issues for a Pakistani Catholic are those that concern the sphere of sexuality and love. I mean homosexuality, divorce and mixed marriages. Faced with all these difficulties, we ask the Church to give the best answers and help us face these circumstances, not to be left alone in front of all this, but to support and accompany us in everyday life."
Regarding the Pakistani context, in particular young Pakistani Catholics, Daniel said that "the lay movement is very active. I work in the diocese of Multan, where we try to involve young people on apologetic issues and spreading the faith."
The best way to profess Christian values in a country with an Islamic majority, such as Pakistan where more than 90 per cent of its 200 million inhabitants are Muslim “and not offend anyone, is through one’s deeds. I reveal what I am through my deeds, my work, my service. It is the others who then realise my worth and recognise 'Yes, you are different: you are Catholic'."
On relations with young people from other religions, he said that "my best friend is a Muslim and I have several other Muslim friends. We have studied together and we continue to see each other. We meet and party together. We participate in each other’s religious celebrations."
According to Daniel, "the real problem in Pakistan is discrimination, which children learn from an early age in schools during their years of study. In our educational system, a message is passed: if you are not a believer, you are an infidel (kafir). Discrimination is inherent in the child's mind, who’d rather not go to school than be considered an infidel. So, the first area in which we must act is education, if we want to overcome this kind of difficulty."
Pakistan however "is often marked by incidents of extremism and Islamic fundamentalism, which not only affect Christians but also mosques. All religions are affected by the same problem."
In his opinion, "the only thing we can do is pray for them. It is not possible to engage extremists in dialogue; hence, we must pray for them. Pray that God can help them and change their lives. If we entrust ourselves completely to him, he will save us. We must pray for the fundamentalists, not that they change their faith, but that God convert their hearts and minds."