ITALY: Afghan refugee tells his story
Salesians in Macerata provide support for refugee families
(MissionNewswire) Salesian missionaries in Macerata, Italy, have been helping refugees become acclimated in their new homes and have hope for a better life. Mustafa Alizada, age 24, has a wife and two children, including a 4-month-old baby. He was forced to flee Kabul, Afghanistan, when the Taliban seized power in August 2021. Because of his Hazara (Shiite) ethnicity, Alizada and his family, including his in-laws, were persecuted by the regime.
His family made the decision to leave quickly and left by car at night. They were able to make it safely to Pakistan and then to Italy.
“When the Taliban took power, we knew we were in danger and had to leave the country as soon as possible,” explained Alizada. “Through my sister-in-law and a journalist, both activists with Afghanistan Women’s Political Participation Network, a tweet was sent to Maria Grazia Mazzola, a RAI journalist, who helped us instantly. Our second child was due, and my wife gave birth in Kabul and then we fled to Pakistan. We traveled at night. Women had only their eyes uncovered and we were afraid. After 21 days we left for Italy, thanks to that tweet.”
Alizada and his family were granted refugee status a few weeks ago. He said, “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.”
An engineer specializing in construction, Alizada is doing his Italian civil service requirement with the Salesians and has started work as a laborer. He aspires to a higher qualification like the one he had in his country. He hopes for the equalization of qualifications and is already trying through an online university. He is also studying the Italian language.
“I thank the Salesians 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 and our friends and family,” added Alizada.
The Salesians supporting him feel the same way. Father Francesco Galante, rector of the Salesian center in Macerata, said, “When they arrived last year, just before Christmas, 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 them. There was a lot to be done with going to the doctor, the police station, then fingerprinting, and accompanying them to the supermarket that had halal meat, and so on.”
Fr. Galante noted it was a lesson for the Salesians as well. “Their arrival 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. We realized that welcoming asks us to listen to those who arrive.”
Fr. Galante also noted that Alizada is hard-working and always willing to lend a hand. “If Mustafa saw us working and by chance, we didn’t ask him to help, he’d be offended. 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 socialize with the university students living in the apartment next to theirs.”
In addition to helping refugees, Salesian programs across Italy help youth who are unable to attend school and others who drop out to work at the few jobs available to them. A growing number of children work as laborers on farms and others have turned to the sex trade to help support their families. Those in poverty often live without adequate shelter, hot water, regular meals and health care.
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Salesian Missions – Italy
World Bank – Italy