ISLAMABAD: A Pakistani Christian whose selfie with the Pope has gone viral has spoken of his “heartache” at the treatment of minorities in the country but also added “we are happy in Pakistan.”
Daniel Bashir, a 26-year-old doctor in Karachi, said on Friday he took the selfie with the leader of the world’s Catholics during a youth conference at the Vatican last month and said the pontiff told him he was praying for peace.
He presented Pope Francis with an ajrak shawl, a traditional block-printed garment from Sindh, and the two posed for the picture in which the pontiff can be seen with the gift draped around his shoulders and grinning broadly.
“My heart is full of happiness,” Bashir captioned the image on Facebook.
“He was very happy to see the ajrak. I also met him personally later and gifted him a blanket,” Bashir said. The pontiff then told him that he “daily prays for peace in Pakistan”, he added.
The image quickly went viral and Bashir found himself in the spotlight, saying he has been receiving calls from media ever since.
He said that he and the pontiff also spoke of the treatment of religious minorities in Pakistan.
Christians make up an estimated two per cent of Pakistan’s more than 200 million people, and have long faced persecution.
Four Christians were shot dead in an attack claimed by the militant Islamic State group in Quetta on April 3, just after Easter.
An IS suicide bombing at a church days before Christmas last year killed eight. “I consider myself safe in Karachi but it is painful to see the incidents with Christians and minorities,” said Bashir.
“Minorities are oppressed too much and with this reference my heart aches,” he said, though he added: “But we are happy in Pakistan.”
He said that he also discussed the topic at the conference, telling fellow delegates from around the world that education would allow children in their community to “face it better”.
Bashir’s encounter with the Pope impressed him so much that instead of specialising in neurosurgery, as he had planned, he now wants to enter the church. “I will present myself to become a priest and join a seminary in June,” he said.
Originally published in Dawn, April 8th, 2018