Italy – Salesians open doors to Afghan refugees. Mustafa's story

05 January 2023

(ANS - Macerata) - "I like Italy very much; in Macerata, I feel fine. I don't want our children's future to be like mine. Everything I had was wiped out. Destroyed in an instant. For them, I wish a peaceful life full of joy," says Mustafa Alizada, just 24 years old but with an already very troubled past: he is a young Afghan refugee in Italy, taken in, with his family, by the Salesians of Macerata.

From his eyes, always smiling and full of gratitude, you would not guess that he has experienced hell: Mustafa has already seen many horrors. And a piece of his heart has remained in Kabul, in his Afghanistan. With the Taliban's seizure of power in August 2021, he was forced to flee with his family: like all those of Hazara (Shiite) ethnicity, they were persecuted by the regime. The decision was made in an instant, the only one possible to have a hope of making it: a tweet that saved their lives and then off they went by car, at night, all covered so as not to be recognized, up to Pakistan.

Here he found refuge with his wife, his newborn son in Kabul, his other 4-year-old son, and his in-laws: 21 days of waiting, then the plane that took them to Italy and their new lives. Mustafa, an engineer specializing in construction, has been here since 2021 and was granted refugee status a few weeks ago, as was the rest of his family: amid greetings to his friends at the Salesians in Viale Don Bosco, where he was welcomed and lives with his wife, children, and in-laws, he finds the strength to tell his story.

"When the Taliban took power, we knew we were in danger; we had to leave the country as soon as possible. Through my sister-in-law and a journalist, activists with Afghanistan Women's Political Participation Network, a tweet was sent to Maria Grazia Mazzola, a Rai journalist, who moved instantly. Our second child was due, those days were chaos, my wife gave birth in Kabul and then we fled to Pakistan. We traveled at night, women had only their eyes uncovered, we were afraid. After 21 days we left for Italy, thanks to that tweet." Now Mustafa is doing his Civil Service with the Salesians, taking care of the boys' activities: soon he will start working in a construction company.

He starts as a laborer and then, who knows, he may aspire to a higher qualification like the one he had in his country: he hopes for the equalization of qualifications, and he is already trying through an online university. Since he has been here, he has never stopped studying: courses upon courses of Italian, to try to communicate well. And he has succeeded, although from Farsi to Italian is not easy.

"I thank the Salesians," he says, "who have held our hands in the most difficult moments of our lives, for giving us a place to live and helping us with work. For us they are brothers, they are friends, they are our family."

"When they arrived last year, just before Christmas," says Fr. Francesco Galante, rector of the Macerata work, "it was a sign of Providence for us. Imagine being faced with a family with a baby just over a month old. This obliged us to provide concrete measures to the welcome, with all the fatigue that goes with it: going to the doctor, to the police station, then fingerprinting, accompanying them to the supermarket with halal meat, and so on... At the same time, it was a lesson for us: it taught us not to suffocate the guests by pouring a thousand cares on them. You can see that they are not economic migrants; they were ripped from their land. One day they were living normally and the next day they were on the run and then welcomed in a country with a different culture, forced to deal with solidarity, to be guests. We realized that welcoming asks us to listen to those who arrive."

Before starting Civil Service, "if Mustafa saw us working and by chance, we didn't ask him to help, he’d be offended," Fr. Galante continues. "He has such a desire to do things, to make himself helpful. He has made friends with everyone here." And, in fact, in addition to the volunteers, Mustafa and family socialized with the university students living in the apartment next to theirs.

The Humanitarian Network of Civil Society, founded by Mazzola, includes, in addition to Salesiani per il Sociale Aps, Don Ciotti's "Gruppo Abele," the Union of Women in Italy, the Evangelical Baptist Christian Churches, the cooperative "Una Città non basta," and the association "Federico nel cuore." Through the Network, 11 families in Italy have been welcomed.

Source: Il Resto del Carlino


ANS - “Agenzia iNfo Salesiana” is a on-line almost daily publication, the communication agency of the Salesian Congregation enrolled in the Press Register of the Tibunal of Rome as n 153/2007.

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