Abdul Sattar Edhi died last night at age 88 at a hospital in Karachi. His funeral was attended by faithful of all religions. He set up a network of homes that welcome thousands of abandoned people, poor, elderly, sick, rejected children, that operate free medical clinics, dispensaries, ambulances. His example of charity will not be forgotten "because his good work is immortal."
Karachi (AsiaNews) - Abdul Sattar Edhi, one of Pakistan’s best-known philanthropists, died last night at age 88 at a hospital in Karachi, where he was hospitalized suffering from renal failure. Today, his funeral was attended by many faithful of all denominations, who wanted to pay tribute to the man who was called the " Pakistan’s Mother Teresa".
The archdiocese of Karachi organized prayer vigils in all the churches. Speaking to AsiaNews several members of the Church of Pakistan, Caritas Karachi, along with activists, Christians and Muslims express deep sorrow for the death of an "angel of mercy" and point out that his example of love will survive in the future thanks to the many social works he initiated.
The state funeral was held at the National Stadium in Karachi. The place was packed with people who had come to pay their last respects to the founder of the "Edhi Foundation", the charitable work that operates the largest network of ambulances around the world.
Edhi was born in 1928 in a small village in Gujarat (India), but in 1947 he moved with his family to Pakistan where he opened the first free medical clinic. Today, in Pakistan alone, his foundation is home to 5,700 people in 17 residential institutions and coordinates 1,500 ambulances. The social network manages dozens of free hospitals, laboratories, orphanages, nursing homes and drug rehabilitation centers. All its centers are equipped with a baby hatch children born from unwanted pregnancies can be left. The man repeated constantly: "Do not kill them, put them in the crib. We will take care of these innocent people".
The philanthropist has received numerous international awards for his work. In 1986 he was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award (the "Asian Nobel") for his public service; in 1989, the Nishan-i-Imtiaz, the highest civilian award of Pakistan. Then came the Gandhi Award, in 2007 the UNESCO Madanjeet Singh Prize and many others. Even his wife Bilquis Edhi is engaged in the humanitarian field and last year received the International Mother Teresa Prize.
Despite the awards, last Edhi led a sober life without pomp, he wore simple clothes and lived in a small, windowless room next to the office of the foundation. Fr Bonnie Mendes says: "He did not care if you were a man or a woman, wounded or disabled. The only criterion that applied was whether you needed help. "
Samson Salamat, a prominent activist, adds: "He promoted non-discrimination for the benefit of society, in a country where discriminatory attitudes on the basis of religion, class and race are very frequent. Edhi served every human being, he always spread a message of humanity and the rejection of hatred and prejudice. He was a voice of love in a culture of hate. "
Rojar Randhawa, coordinator of Caritas Lahore, recalls that the man would always say: "I have never received a formal education. But what are we to make of education if we do not become human beings? My school is the good of humanity. No religion is above humanity".
Irfan Mufti, deputy director of South Asia Partnership Pakistan, reports: "Edhi has made two major contributions to our society. In an age of materialism, apathy, regression, he has served in a human, honest and straightforward way with the typical features of a social worker. He also rejected any position of power, wealth, luxury. People like him transcend every dimension of time and space and become immortal through their words and deeds".
At his funeral, Fr. Saleh Diego, vicar general of the Archdiocese of Karachi, laid a wreath of flowers on behalf of the whole local Church. The priest said he had visited him in hospital: "He was very happy to see us. Together with his family we prayed for him".
(Shafique Khokhar collaborated)