Abdul Sattar Edhi - The World Loses a True Humanitarian - Tributes To Pakistan's "Mother Teresa"
By Jairaj Singh, Associate Partner, Lighthouse International
To many in Pakistan he is as revered as Mother Teresa. For many in the wider world who may not have heard of him, we lost a very special soul yesterday. Abdul Sattar Edhi, Chairman of the Edhi Foundation, which runs the largest free ambulance service in the world, passed away at the age of 88. His last words were, "Meray mulk k ghareebo ka khiyal rakhna" which means "take care of poor Pakistanis". This was the mantra he lived by and the legacy that will carry on long after him.
Rarely does the world see human beings of his kind, there are but a few names in history who one can speak of in the same vain. To compare him with Mother Teresa and Mahatma Gandhi is something he would never have wished for given his humility, yet it helps us appreciate the gravity of the difference he made to the most "untouchable" men, women and children in Pakistan. As Dawn.com wrote:
"Born to a family of traders in Gujarat, Mr Edhi arrived in Pakistan in 1947.
The state’s failure to help his struggling family care for his mother – paralysed and suffering from mental health issues – was his painful and decisive turning point towards philanthropy.
In the sticky streets in the heart of Karachi, Mr Edhi, full of idealism and hope, opened his first clinic in 1951. “Social welfare was my vocation, I had to free it,” he says in his autobiography, ‘A Mirror To The Blind’.
Motivated by a spiritual quest for justice, over the years Mr Edhi and his team created maternity wards, morgues, orphanages, shelters and homes for the elderly – all aimed at helping those who cannot help themselves.
The most prominent symbols of the foundation – its 1,500 ambulances – are deployed with unusual efficiency to the scene of terrorist attacks that tear through the country with devastating regularity.
Revered by many as a national hero, Mr Edhi created a charitable empire out of nothing. He masterminded Pakistan’s largest welfare organisation almost single-handedly, entirely with private donations.
Content with just two sets of clothes, he slept in a windowless room of white tiles adjoining the office of his charitable foundation. Sparsely equipped, it had just one bed, a sink and a hotplate.
“He never established a home for his own children,” his wife Bilquis, who manages the foundation’s homes for women and children, told AFP in an interview this year.
What he has established is something of a safety net for the poor and destitute, mobilising the nation to donate and help take action – filling a gap left by a lack of welfare state.
Mr Edhi has been nominated several times for the Nobel Peace Prize, and appeared on the list again this year – put there by Malala Yousafzai, Pakistan’s teenage Nobel laureate."
If we are fortunate enough, sometimes in our lifetime we meet people who, out of their own suffering bring forth a spirit that yearns to help those who need it most. How many of us go about our day to day lives concerned with our own worries and stresses and often don't think about those suffering on our streets and in our communities? I know I am far more guilty of it than not. Mr Edhi's legacy is one that calls us all to do whatever we can in any small way to help those less fortunate than ourselves. Abdul Sattar Edhi was perhaps the greatest humanitarian we have left, he now passes the torch onto all of us...
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