Pakistanis light candles at a makeshift memorial on July 8 in Lahore, to remember Abdul Sattar Edhi, the philanthropist who died on July 8, aged 88. (Photo by Kamran Chaudhry)
Abdul Sattar Edhi, a Muslim and a humanitarian who has been described as the "Pakistani Good Samaritan" has been remembered in church services across the country.
"He was the father of the poor," said Archbishop Sebastian Shah at a service at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Lahore.
"History will always remember our Good Samaritan," said Archbishop Shah. "He recognized God’s love to the poor and dedicated his life to the cause, working without distinguishing between religion or cast."
Special prayers were offered in churches across the country on July 10 for the philanthropist who died on July 8, aged 88.
A delegation of church workers including four priests attended his state funeral at the National Stadium in Karachi. Strict security was arranged at the event also attended by President Mamnoon Hussain, top politicians, army and government officials.
Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, also mourned the loss of "a great servant of humanity" and announced a national day of national mourning in honor of Edhi who founded one of the country's largest social welfare organizations.
Pakistan's Mother Teresa
Often referred to as "Pakistan's Mother Teresa," Edhi was born in a village in Gujarat, British India. His Muslim family moved to Pakistan in 1947 and started the Edhi Foundation a decade later.
Today, there are 335 Edhi Welfare Centers providing free medical care. Seventeen Edhi Homes offer shelter to mentally challenged people, orphans and victims of domestic violence. The foundation also runs a cancer hospital, free laboratory, maternity home and food program.
Last year, his wife, Bilquis Edhi was awarded the Mother Teresa Memorial International Award in India for sheltering Geeta, a deaf and mute Indian girl who had been stranded in Pakistan for a decade.
Edhi was always dressed in gray, homespun cotton. He led a simple life in a two room apartment adjacent to the Foundation’s headquarters. He received many national and international awards including the 2011 London Peace Award.
Archbishop Shah engaged in pastoral work with Edhi in 1988. "For three months, I visited with a team of doctors and gave medicine to drug addicts and sick inmates," he said. "Together, we bathed dead bodies and shrouded them for burial."
"Once a baby was a found in a garbage dump and the local cleric condemned him for being without a father" he continued. "Edhi stood up and took responsibility for the baby. He was a celebrity living as beggar."
Many took to social media to praise the humanitarian. "We had one Edhi [out of] 200 million," tweeted Amir Mateen, a Pakistani journalist. "He was bigger than Mother Teresa for us; we don't have a single successor."
"RIP Abdul Sattar Edhi, Pakistan's Father Teresa, wonderful human being," tweeted Shekhar Gupta from India.The Civil Society Network, a Lahore based group, also held a candlelit vigil at Charing Cross, Lahore yesterday evening. Visitors placed bouquets in front of a large portrait of Edhi.
"In the nation’s time of need, whether it was terrorist attacks or natural calamities, Edhi's welfare services have been the first to render help and extend solidarity," said Michelle Chaudhry, president of Cecil Chaudhry & Iris Foundation, a Christian NGO. "The greatest way to pay tribute to him is by keeping alive his vision of humanity."
"While the whole world saw terrorism in Pakistan, he presented the beautiful face of the nation," said Mansha Noor, executive secretary of Caritas Pakistan. "The church will always remember Edhi. He considered humanity as his religion and we urge the government to make his teachings a part of the school curriculum."
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