MANILA, August 7, 2011?Religious difference with his fellow pilgrims did not hinder a young Muslim from Davao City from attending the 26th World Youth Day (WYD) under the official Catholic delegation of the Philippines.
In fact, even the on-going observance of Ramadan among Muslims did not stop Yussef Paglas, 17, from immersing himself with young people from a religion different from his.
Paglas is with other 426 WYD pilgrims under the delegation of the Episcopal Commission on Youth Philippines (ECY-Philippines) attending the first day of their preparatory session at St. Pedro Poveda College yesterday. He is going to Spain with a group of Catholic youth from the Archdiocese of Davao.
When asked why he wanted to experience the WYD, Paglas, who is being groomed as a politician like his father, said he was looking for an opportunity to understand deeper the Catholic faith so that he can also help his Catholic constituents.
“To become a better leader, it is not good to be biased to only one religion. You need to know the belief of others so that you can understand their situation and know how to help them,” Paglas said.
Paglas admitted feeling out-of-place for being with huge Catholic group but said he can still relate with them for having educated in a Catholic school since kindergarten and having Catholic friends in his circle.
“I don’t see myself differently from the rest just because of my religion. For me, we only have one God, who we see in different ways,” he said.
Despite the coincidence of the WYD celebration with the Ramadan observance, Paglas said he will still practice fasting and consistent prayers even while participating in the activities during Days in the Diocese (DID) at Coria Caceres from August 11 to 15 and the WYD in Madrid from August 16 to 21.
“I’ll take it as a challenge to observing Ramadan while participating at the WYD. I will recite my prayers and bring the Quoran to read passages even during the WYD. I will observe our practices as much as I can,” he said.
According to ECY executive secretary Fr. Conegundo Garganta, Paglas is the first Muslim to join the ECY-Philippines delegation, which usually sends the biggest group to past WYDs.
But Garganta clarified that Muslims and people from other faith groups are not barred from participating in the WYD. In fact, young Muslims have been sent to past WYDs by episcopal conferences of countries with dominant Muslim population.
Garganta said the ECY-Philippines delegation welcomed Paglas to the group primarily to “show how welcoming the Catholic Church is with other faith groups.”
Aside from breaking the record, Garganta disclosed that Paglas was chosen to be one of the three Filipino youth who will be seated very near Pope Benedict XVI during the Vigil with the Pope.
“At the Vigil, Paglas will be seated with selected representatives of countries participating in the WYD.
He will be one of the three Filipino youth chosen to experience this rare opportunity,” Garganta added.
Paglas and the rest of the Filipino pilgrims under the ECY-Philippines delegation will start flying to Spain from August 8 to 11 for the DID. Others will be leaving later just in time for the WYD. (YouthPinoy)