Rome, Italy, Sep 3, 2016 / 11:21 am (CNA).- As the canonization of Bl. Mother Teresa of Caluctta draws near, the son of a leading Muslim philanthropist in Pakistan praised the nun’s example, recalling how his late father had admired her and believed in learning from her example.
“We should learn from her. Muslims should adopt the concept of missionary spirit. We have been negligent on many levels, not many people are involved in humanitarian mission.”
These are the words of Abdul Sattar Edhi, a Muslim and one of the most well-known philanthropists in Pakistan. Often called the “Mother Teresa of Pakistan,” Edhi passed away July 8 at the age of 88.
On the night he died, the Archdiocese of Karachi organized a prayer vigil in churches throughout the diocese to pray for his intentions. His funeral was attended by swarms of people from different faith backgrounds who wanted to honor him and the many social works he initiated.
Born in the small village of Gujarat, India in 1928, Edhi had to move his family to Pakistan in 1947 when the country was partitioned. It was there that he began his first free medical clinic, which today has turned into a large foundation, the “Edhi Foundation,” that is home to some 5,700 people in 17 residential institutions and which organizes 1,500 ambulances.
The network Edhi founded runs dozens of free hospitals, laboratories, nursing homes, orphanages and rehab centers for drug addicts, and each center contains a cot where children from unwanted pregnancies can be left.
In addition to his social work, Edhi received several international awards. His wife is also engaged in the humanitarian field, and in 2015 received the “International Mother Teresa Prize.” However, despite his awards, Edhi led a simple life and shunned positions of power. After his death, Edhi’s son Faisal took charge of the foundation.
Faisal sent a message for the occasion of Mother Teresa’s Sept. 4 canonization, which was read aloud at a Sept. 2 symposium organized by Asia News.
Mother Teresa, he said, “was a great social worker who dedicated her whole life to the service of humanity without distinction of caste or religion. Her canonization will immortalize her service for the poorest of the poor.”
People like Mother Teresa, he said, help create a good environment that can assist “in ending rivalries between nations and communities.”
Faisal recalled how his father Abdul had frequently spoken of Mother Teresa and her work, saying that Muslims must learn her example and service to others.
He noted how both his father and Mother Teresa lived during the same period, and how both had been criticized in papers by “religious hardliners” who “claimed conversions,” perhaps because “they had no other argument.”
“Only missionary spirit can help them in working for the welfare of others and understanding their sufferings,” he said.
Faisal recalled how his father had always admired the Catholic nuns who ran two centers for the disabled in Karachi, and that Abdul “kept close relations with missionaries and used to send me to there.”
He noted how their family continues to support the centers, and each day sends five kilograms of mutton to Dar ul Sukun, the largest Church-run center for the mentally and physically disabled in Karachi.
On the day of Abdul’s death, Karachi Archbishop Joseph Coutts and a small delegation from the archdiocese came to the Edhi Foundation and prayed in the philanthropist’s room, lighting candles and offering prayers.
Faisal recalled how the archbishop gave him a candle that came from the Vatican, and noted that may priests attended his father’s funeral and prayed for him in their Masses the following Sunday.
“We have people of all faiths in our centers but we never count how many of them are non-Muslims,” he said, explaining that “we respect and treat everybody equally.”
Faisal closed his letter by noting how his father had “trained me to do what Mother Teresa did,” and voiced his hope that he would be able to serve the poor as she did.
“As a Muslim social worker in Pakistan, I thanks Missionaries for their kindness and establishment centers that work without any discrimination in our third world country,” he said, adding that “there is no other example of the ways in which they help the disabled, especially handicapped children.”
He noted that Pakistan is the 6th most populous country in the world, with a population of 201 million people. The state, he said, has failed to provide basic facilities such as public transport, quality healthcare and education.
“Much work needs to be done and we need more people like Mother Teresa.”