My father, Sherali Bandali Jaffer, has always believed that religion should not separate, but rather, unite us. Therefore, even as a Muslim man, he has always had the utmost respect for the Vatican. In 1969, he met Pope Paul VI and provided accommodations for his entourage on their visit to Uganda. It was not long after this that my family and I were forced to leave our home country of Uganda as refugees.
After re-establishing himself in Canada, my father took the first opportunity to return to his birth country of Uganda. It was a point of great pride to return to Uganda and be able to host Pope John Paul II in 1993.
During the Pope’s visit to Uganda in 1993, the papal entourage stayed at my father’s hotel. He provided members of the Vatican with free accommodation and meals during their stay in Uganda.
For his service, my father was rewarded with a medal personally presented to him by Pope John Paul II. He also received three rosaries from the Pope, one of which I was lucky enough to receive as a gift. It remains one of my most prized possessions.
Yesterday, during the daily phone call I share with my father, I told him about the Pope John Paul II bill. I could hear the pride in his voice as he reminisced about his experience with the Pope. I listened as he recounted the time he spent with the Pope; he remembered the emotion he felt when Pope John Paul II bestowed blessings upon him.
In his 26 year papacy, Pope John Paul II was instrumental in emphasizing unity across all religions. He will forever be remembered and revered around the world as a symbol of peace and pluralism. These are values my father greatly admired and strived to instill in my siblings and me.