“You have to care for all beings created by God…My mission is to help any person in need.”
Not everyone gets called a living saint. Heck, people don’t even recognize your existence unless they benefit from you. However, when you affect people’s lives on such a colossal scale that a whole country rallies behind you without even asking to, when your selflessness is unmatched and your dedication relentless, that is when even the harshest critics cannot stand in the way of your mission. That is when you become a living saint. Abdul Sattar Edhi, the dedicated humanitarian, is one such beautiful soul who graced us with his presence as a reminder that good still prevails in this chaotic mess we call our motherland. Mr. Edhi is one of those people whose struggle has been recognized far and wide, beyond the borders of Pakistan. Some even regard him as the most revered personality that this country has ever seen, second only to Mr. Jinnah.
Source: Edhi Foundation
“I do not have any formal education… what use is education when we do not become human beings [after being educated]? My school is the welfare of humanity.”
Born in a small town in the Gujarat state of India, Mr. Edhi had been a witness to human suffering at an early age, having cared for, at 11, his mother who was crippled by paralysis. Upon moving to Karachi at the time of partition, young Abdul Sattar set out to work as a cloth peddler to make ends meet and this is the time he came into close contact with the sufferings of people in the young, destitute Pakistan. Such an impressionable age did not deter him; in fact, it only strengthened in him the resolve to contribute to helping people through their suffering, a job that a responsible government should be doing. Coincidentally, for the marginalized migrant Memon community of Karachi, to which Edhi belongs, government support was virtually nonexistent. With a strong will to uplift those in need and a strong support from people looking to help a man with a vision, Mr. Edhi set up a free dispensary.
Establishing a Haven for Humanity
Source: USC News
“Empty words and long praises do not impress God. Show Him your faith by your deeds.”
Little did Edhi know at the time he set his small, free dispensary that his mission would one day grow to be the world’s biggest fleet of emergency services. When his small, impoverished community began seeing the benefit of free access to integral medical care they started supporting Edhi by donations. Upon the first official call to the public for funding, he collected Rs. 200,000/- and with the sum, set up the “Edhi Trust”.
After six decades of untiring, dedicated altruism, the Edhi Foundation today stands at a nationwide network of shelters for orphans, abandoned women and the elderly, sick, mentally disabled and drug and assault victims. They also operate possibly the largest fleet in the world of a voluntary ambulance service which includes a helicopter, airplanes and more than two dozen rescue boats. With a presence from Japan to the United States, the Edhi Foundation is arguably a world leader in social service. All thanks to the vision of a man supported by a steady, generous stream of worldwide donations.
Powering Through the Hard Times
Source: Express Tribune
“Beware of those who attribute petty instructions to God.”
Despite all the good work he has done, there were those who could not see him succeed. His biggest opposition came from religiously aligned organizations and ethnic political parties especially in his home base of Karachi. And the reason for their opposition was his compassion for all mankind without care for their religion, class or ethnicity. To counter his success and groundwork, some have even set up rival “aid networks” on the platform of religious piety and have even managed to put a dent in the massive donations that Edhi Foundation used to enjoy. But for a man who has seen the harshest of times since before he was even old enough to understand what suffering meant, this has not daunted him.
He stood strong against any and all criticism and his policy of having no policy but that of humanity is how he became such an acclaimed personality in Pakistan.
A Saint for All Times to Come
“One day they shall rise like mad men and pull down these walls that keep their future captive. Mark my words and heed them before you find yourselves the prey instead of the predator.”
For saints it does not matter if an organization bestows upon them an award that is decided arbitrarily, without a popular vote. Mr. Edhi’s position, not only in Pakistan but all over the world, is much higher than a Noble Prize. It can also be said without a shred of doubt that to him these superficial awards never mattered. What is closer to his heart is seeing a country that steps up to help their fellow countrymen in need and his biggest achievement is the legacy of compassion, support and humanity.
To honor the legacy of a true hero what we can do is carry out his mission in whatever capacity we can. To become a more tolerant nation is what we need to strive for and develop into better human beings by emulating his traits of humanity and nondiscrimination against one over another and being kind without regard to someone’s religious, sectarian or regional background.
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