By Kate Veik and Kevin J. Jones
Krakow, Poland, Jul 28, 2016 / 12:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Among the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims at World Youth Day are two brothers, recently reunited.
“I’m from Syria,” Yousef Astfan, 34, told CNA. “It’s been divided.”
Yousef first attended World Youth Day in Madrid in 2011. Now he’s in Krakow with his brother, 25-year-old Al Astfan, a first-time attendee who loves the event.
“It’s great. It’s such a great opportunity to meet people from all the world, in the name of Jesus,” Al said.
Yousef explained his own thoughts about the massive Catholic youth gathering.
“It gives you a very nice push for your faith, to be here to see all these Christians. Because everybody says that Europe is no more Christian,” he said.
“When I come here? No, I don’t see this. I feel proud that all these Christians are here. Especially when we fight for our Christianity in Syria. Being a Christian in Syria is a curse. You can get killed for this.”
The Syrian civil war has raged since March 2011. More than 270,000 people have been killed, while over 12 million are displaced or have become refugees. Some of the combatants have conducted atrocities against Christians and other religious minorities.
The Astfan brothers’ parents and sister, her family, and Yousef’s wife and family are still in Syria.
“They are living in Aleppo. It’s pretty dangerous there. But they don’t want to leave their country,” Yousef said.
Al Astfan has lived in Germany for about 18 months as a refugee. He is studying for his master’s degree in mechanical engineering.
“I want to continue my study,” he told CNA.
As for Yousef, he now lives and works in Dubai. The two had only just reunited on Tuesday.
“I met him literally four hours ago,” Yousef said. “This is the first time I met him in three years. Since he left Syria, I didn’t see him.”
“I just can’t believe that he’s here with me, finally,” he added. “My family are very happy because we finally met. They wish to be here as well.”
His brother Al was also reflective about the reunion.
“It’s great, we remember old days,” he said.
Yousef thought Christians who live free from violent persecution should appreciate what they have.
“They don’t appreciate the bliss they are living in,” he said. “I can just tell the people and raise my voice: you are living in a bliss, so keep it, do what you need to do.”
He also had a message for CNA readers: “Just pray for Syria. They cannot do anything more.”