Assisting Displaced Families in Need
Under cover of night, Mustafa hurriedly loaded his expectant wife, in-laws, and first-born baby into a car and drove as fast as he could toward the border of Pakistan—where he prayed they would find safety from Afghanistan’s increasingly dangerous and repressive regime. With help from our Salesian missionaries, his prayers were answered.
Mustafa’s young family is characteristic of a decades-long crisis that has already uprooted more than 3.5 million innocent Afghans. More recently, with the Taliban’s rise, so too, has the number of displaced people risen. In 2021 alone, as many as 700,000 people—many of them women and children—were forced from their homes.
“One day, they were living normal lives,” says Father Timothy Ploch, interim director of Salesian Missions. “And the next, they were ripped from everything they held dear.”
Not all of them flee though. Of the ones who do, the vast majority land first in Pakistan—either as a stopover to somewhere else, or as their newly adopted residence. There, Salesian missionaries are ready to assist.
Since 1998, when they first arrived in Pakistan, Salesian missionaries have provided quality educational opportunities for disadvantaged youth. Throughout the country, Salesian-run schools provide economic benefits, scholarships and accommodations for students from the poorest families. Drawing upon this existing network—and leveraging their trusted presence among the communities in which they serve—missionaries have launched several initiatives to serve Afghan refugees fleeing violence and oppression at home.
At Don Bosco Lahore, missionaries welcome hundreds of families with open arms … and crucial support.
Here, 1,500 Afghan children and adults receive shelter and basic necessities. Recently, with help from compassionate donors of Salesian Missions—and in collaboration with Peshawar authorities and city administration—missionaries and staff distributed additional aid to benefit 200 families of various sizes.
Mr. Vincent, who coordinated these efforts, says “the Christian community of Peshawar has rallied around the value of solidarity. We feel proud that we are able to selflessly help people of various cultures in a spirit of universal brotherhood.”
“Offering humanitarian assistance to refugee families is a logical extension to our missionaries’ work on behalf of the poor,” says Fr. Tim. “Not only is it the right thing to do, but it models the ideals of Don Bosco and our Catholic faith, so that students in Salesian schools may carry those ideals forward into the world.”
Missionaries in this border city are working to provide normalcy and educational continuity for families and children fleeing the Taliban.
Afghan children whose classrooms were destroyed are welcomed into Salesian schools thanks to the dedication of the men and women working in our missions. Now, these missionaries have stepped up their efforts to assist those who have permanently left their home country. Take for example an experienced Salesian lay volunteer named John, who delivers groceries and other necessities to refugee households. He also ensures that children are prepared to attend school, by providing uniforms, books and supplies so they are ready to succeed. “When they hear I am working in the spirit of Don Bosco, these families are very happy, very grateful,” he reports.
For Mustafa and his family, Pakistan served both as a safe zone and a stepping stone. They remained in the country only for as long as they needed to—three weeks—before venturing to Italy to start a new life.
And our Salesian missionaries were waiting—just as they have been since the global refugee crisis first exploded in 2015. Building upon this foundational experience, missionaries in host communities throughout Europe now directly assist nearly 400,000 people displaced by war, persecution and other crises. Through language classes, housing assistance, employment services and other social support, our missionaries help new arrivals integrate into their communities and access the resources they need for self-sufficiency.
“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 our friends and family,” Mustafa says gratefully.
For more information on Afghan refugees in Pakistan, visit our YouTube channel to view first-hand accounts of our work on their behalf: bit.ly/3ww3jEZ
Our mission brings dignity and hope to refugees fleeing oppression around the world. What’s your mission?