Tens of thousands of young people from all corners of the world are participating this week in World Youth Day in Panama. They are meeting with Pope Francis, hearing inspiring talks, and spending time encountering the faithful from nearly every nation on earth.
However, not everyone who planned to be there made it. In Pakistan, 14 young Catholics were blocked from the pilgrimage at the last minute, according to Fides News Agency.
The Department for Immigration Office at Allama Iqbal airport in Lahore stopped young Catholics who, on 23rd and 24th January, were about to embark to participate in World Youth Day, underway in Panama. The Pakistani Catholic delegation was blocked and 14 young people, despite having a regular visa, were not allowed to travel. Only a Jesuit seminarian, Emmanuel, was allowed to embark.
Paul Mohan, the coordinator of the Catholic Youth Commission of the Diocese of Hyderabad, told Fides about the misadventure and the bitter disappointment: “On the morning of January 23, we passed the security checks at the airport and collected the boarding passes to reach the Immigration Office. They kept us waiting for more than an hour and then they refused us permission.
“It was a very sad fact for the whole group, we tried a way out, talking with the members of the Office and with the officials of the airlines, we changed the ticket for the following day, paying a penalty and hoping that everything will be clarified. But the next day, the Office stopped us again, even though we all had a regular visa and the letters of accompaniment of the Bishops.”
Adding insult to injury, not only were the young people not allowed to attend the Papal event, they had paid the equivalent of about 1,800 euros each for the plane tickets.
It is not the first time that Pakistani Christians are denied the right to travel. In 2018 it was the Irish government that refused entry visas for Pakistani Christians who intended to participate in the World Meeting of Families. And in 2011 the Spanish government refused to issue visas for WYD to the youth of Pakistan and Bangladesh.