Yet through it all, Arif has done his best to stay hopeful, and share his gifts of education and kindness with the world. He is beloved by the refugee community of Indonesia, and he would be a huge asset to a country like Canada.
Name: Arif HR
Background: Hazara Afghani, born in Pakistan
Status: Asylum seeker in Indonesia
Risk of return: Persecution, life threats and death
Need: Private sponsorship to Canada
Advantages: Advanced English skills, volunteer teaching experience, UN-certified
Arif was born in 1997 in Quetta, Pakistan. His parents moved from Afghanistan in 1994 in the midst of the civil war. The family lived peacefully in Quetta for a time, until the situation in Pakistan for Hazara people like themselves started to worsen.
A minority people – both in terms of ethnicity and religion – the Hazara began to face persecution and even genocide – first in Afghanistan, and now in Pakistan.
Losing a Father
With tensions mounting in Pakistan, Arif’s father decided to return to Afghanistan to see if it were possible to return. His hope was that with the end of the civil war, the family might have better chances there. He headed to Jaghori, Ghazni, at the heart of the Hazara area.
He never returned. The family learned from locals that Taliban troops were stopping cars in the area and abducting Hazaras. The family asked friends coming from Afghanistan if they had seen the father, but there is still no news of him to this day.
“My father was like a mountain to us. His showers of love, affection and care made us feel happy and hopeful. We never experienced any sadness under his presence and protection. After his loss, the world and time looked dark, with every hope and happiness fading. We are still waiting for my father to return.”
After this devastating loss, his mother supported Arif along with his other three brothers. She washed dishes and laundered clothes at other people’s homes to earn a living for her family.
“Even when she was so exhausted she would become ill, she never lost hope. She continued to pay for our education and cover our expenses. She is my inspiration.”
In August 2011, Arif survived a suicide car bombing in Quetta, Pakistan at a mosque on Eid, when he was about to exit the mosque’s gate.
“I cannot forget that day – a time of happiness and blessing, turned into flames, blood and cries. When the suicide bomber blew himself up, the burning car fragments fell in front of me. I got so scared that I started shivering. I saw my friends lying dead in pools of blood.”
“I was lucky to narrowly escape the attack. Yet it left so much fear in my mind and heart and still haunts me.”
After the attack, Arif still did not lose hope. He continued his education and found part-time work at a teashop in bazaar, when he was only 14 years old. He did it to support his family. He graduated high school in 2015 and hoped to pursue higher education.
His dreams of receiving a higher education and supporting his family in the absence of his father were shattered when members of the militant group known as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi attacked his workplace in February of 2016.
He was lucky that he was not present at the shop at that time. When he returned to the teashop, he learned from the people gathered there that the shop owner, also a Hazara, had been gunned down and killed.
“The people gathered there, mostly Pashtun, told me to get home quickly as the assailants might come back and kill me too. As a Hazara, I would be on their hit list. I rode home on my bike as fast as I could and told my mother everything. She thanked God for my survival.”
“I was profoundly terrified and did not step out of the house for weeks.”
His mother advised him to leave Pakistan for a safer place. In May 2016, at just 19 years of age, he took the risky journey to Indonesia – alone.
Hope and Despair
When Arif arrived in Indonesia in May 2016, he faced a number of hurdles: educational, financial, physical and psychological. His dreams of starting a new life in a safe country were shattered when he learned that the resettlement process had slowed down due to limited quotas.
Refugees entering after July 29, 2014 would not be resettled in Australia, which largely controlled the refugee situation in Indonesia. To make things worse, the UNHCR changed its policy in January 2018 and stopped taking refugee interviews. Arif’s interview, scheduled for February 2018, was cancelled.
Spending life in limbo is a terrible experience. Each morning, Arif wakes up with the hope of some progress and good news, but everything seems hollow and worthless. He is far from his family, and his youth, talent, education and life are being wasted in Indonesia.
Yet he cannot go back home, where he would almost certainly be killed.
He does his best to make life better for others. Soon after his arrival, he began teaching at the Refugee Learning Centre in Bogor, Indonesia. For the past four years, he has been sharing his knowledge of science and English with refugee women and children. He also volunteers as an interpreter.
His contributions have made him a huge asset to his community. Widely loved, he in turn finds so much joy in the smiles of those he helps.
“Learning, adopting and sharing positive experiences and skills has been my sole goal. It not lifts my own spirits, it also gives other people a way to grow their own talents and gifts.”
Arif dreams of a better and safe future in a third country, where he can pursue a higher education, stand on his own two feet, support his family from afar, and continue to help others.
It’s possible. Since he is officially certified as a refugee by the UNHCR – unlike the vast majority of the world’s refugees – he qualifies for Canada’s private sponsorship program,
You Can Help!
A group of friends in Canada and Australia are working to do just that. Before we can submit a private sponsorship application, however, we need to we have enough funds for his first 12 months of life in Canada.
According to Canadian Immigration, the funds - $17,000 CAD - must be raised first and held in trust before the sponsorship application can move forward. The funds raised will go entirely towards Arif for his first year of expenses.
To learn more about Arif, read his profile on the Northern Lights website. You can also reach out to him directly on Facebook.
If you would like to sponsor Arif, please contact his friend Stephen Watt.
If you can help financially, please click on the “Donate” button. Every dollar brings us one step to our goal.
Reach out and discover how wonderful it is to privately sponsor a good person to start a new life – with your help – in Canada!
Thank you for your support. And help spread the word by sharing this post!
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