A cradle for abandoned children: the Edhi Foundation against any discrimination (Video)
by Kamran Chaudhry

The philanthropic foundation runs Pakistan’s largest network of ambulances, orphanages and drug rehab centres. In 2016, its ambulances carried more than 67,000 patients. the Foundation also transported 994 bodies, and buried 296 unclaimed dead people. Caritas calls on the government to support such initiatives.

Lahore (AsiaNews) – The Edhi Foundation is Pakistan’s largest philanthropic organisation. It was founded by Abdul Sattar Edhi, who is considered the ‘Mother Teresa of Pakistan’.

Last year, Edhi Foundation ambulances transported more than 67,000 patients for free in the capital of Punjab, 994 bodies were transported home, and 296 unclaimed bodies were given a funeral.

In all, the Foundation runs 2,025 centres for abandoned children, drug addicts, seniors, and the poor.

Centres have a cradle where unwanted children can be left. Following the founder, a note saying "Do not kill, place the child in cradle", stands at entrance of Edhi Centre's zonal office in Lahore.

Abdul Sattar Edhi was one of the most beloved people in Pakistan. His son sent a note to the Symposium organised by AsiaNews about Mother Teresa.

Today the Edhi Foundation operates the largest network of ambulances in the country, as well as schools, hospitals, orphanages, retirement homes and drug rehab centres.

In January 2017, in Lahore, the Foundation’s facilities welcomed 278 people, males and females, drug addicts, needy and runaways. Of the latter, 134 were returned to their homes. In addition, some 9,840 people were provided with free food, whilst 12,560 people were treated at the dispensary.

Zameer Ahmad, a Foundation official at the Lahore office, said that the Mother Teresa of Pakistan used to tell his critics “My ambulance is more human than you".

"Our ulema are more interested in politics,” he explained, whereas, Edhi “worked for people of all religions. We carry on his mission; none of our services were suspended after his death."

Christians appreciate the organisation's work. Fr Francis Gulzar, executive secretary of Caritas Lahore, calls on the Pakistani government to help and promote such initiatives.

"The whole world knows him for helping the poor in Pakistan,” Fr Gulzar told AsiaNews. “He actually gave them an identity and dignity. We need such people in our society marked by extremism and discrimination".

Fr Gulzar, who is also the vicar general of the Archdiocese of Lahore, remembers his first meeting with Abdul Sattar Edhi, who died last year.

"I was struck by his simplicity,” he explained. “He always wore two pair of clothes. He buried bodies others would not even touch. I praise his brave team for working amid bombings and disasters".

"We discourage discussions on religion and politics in our centres,” said Zameer Ahmad. “Our one and only work is to beg and work for the benefit of needy people".

"Many Christian families contact us for child adoption as there are no orphanages for non-Muslims,” he added. However, “Catholic nuns, who run centres for the physically and mentally challenged in Lahore, do collaborate with us. We know Christians through Mother Teresa and expect them to be more open" soon.