2000 Balzan Prize for Humanity, Peace and Fraternity among Peoples
Acceptance Speech – Rome 15.11.2000
Members of the International Balzan Foundation,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I feel great pleasure to be here, among the Italian people, in the beautiful city of Rome. And I would firstly like to express my gratitude to the International Balzan Foundation and its founders. We share the same interests and the same spirit, that is to say to devote our efforts to the good of humanity.
It was my mother who instilled in me the love and respect for all dejected beings. The satisfaction that I felt in caring and serving my paralysed mother is not over, even after many decades. It can never be over, because many mothers like my own, still lie paralysed and are being cared for in our Edhi Homes.
Sir, the modern age of communication, science and technology has turned the world into a global village. Now a particular people of one specific area do not suffer the calamity, disaster, anarchy and poverty alone. Electronic media transmits the pain of the most distant people through waves that spread throughout the world, within minutes, creating a sense of uneasiness and concern in general, and in particular among the social welfare organizations committed to assisting humanity.
The Abdul Sattar Edhi Foundation is one such organization which has been serving in the field of social welfare for the last 50 years. We originated from an indigent area of Karachi in the form of a free dispensary that I rented and ran alone.
We started by providing free medicines to the needy and gradually, as our work expanded in the year 1957, we received one ambulance as a donation. Thereafter, a few volunteers joined me in my mission and now, by the grace of God, the Abdul Sattar Edhi Foundation is recognized as the largest volunteer ambulance organization in the world, as recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records, 2000.
Sir, in conducting all kinds of relief work undertaken by Abdul Sattar Edhi Foundation, I have only and always relied directly upon my own countrymen. On the people of Pakistan. Today I can proudly declare that I have never accepted any donation from any local or foreign government, nor from any charity organization.
And yet, at every fifty kilometres in Pakistan, the Abdul Sattar Edhi Foundation stands guard in the form of highway centres that provide first aid to the injured, with transport to hospitals and burial arrangements for the dead. A fleet of over four hundred ambulances, air ambulances, field units, mobile units and rescue units comprise this countrywide network.
Edhi Homes provide boarding, lodging, clothing and food to destitute children, women and men. We encourage inculcating a spirit of self-help and self-development among the residents of our homes by providing them with education and vocational training in different fields. The mentally handicapped are especially encouraged to understand the importance of self-help.
Children and adults separated from their families during emergencies are reunited with the aid of a wireless network and through the services of state radio and television. Baby cradles are installed at nearly all the centres where unwanted children are abandoned, taken into our protection and later given for adoption to families without issue.
As well as an eye hospital and various other health care centres, a cancer hostel in Karachi provides radiotherapy and terminal care to patients. The Abdul Sattar Edhi Foundation has to date buried thousands of unclaimed bodies.
Mr. President, the scope of the Abdul Sattar Edhi Foundation’s activities are not confined to Pakistan alone. Wherever a natural calamity occurs, the Edhi Foundation uses its own resources to help those affected. A few examples include the famine in Somalia, Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, Egypt and aid for the refugees of Bosnia, Palestine and Kashmir, as well as the flood victims of Bangladesh.
Edhi International offices are serving people in America, Canada, London and the UAE.
Mr. President, this was only an introductory outline of the activities of the Abdul Sattar Edhi Foundation. I made it with a view to conveying the idea that, although sincerity and devotion always lead to success, if these qualities are directed toward the poor and dejected, then God and His people come forward to assist.
Mr. President, according to the human rights declaration, food, shelter, education, health and employment have been declared basic human rights. Providing these rights is now part of any human rights manifesto.
In this regard, I believe that the poor countries of the world need the world’s concern and specific attention. And I would like to convey on this honoured occasion to all people, intellectuals and Heads of State, my own deep concern for peace. War can only bring forth massacre and bloodshed. Only peace can generate prosperity and happiness. The world requires moving towards the establishment of International Peace very seriously and very urgently. Because Peace is also one of the basic rights of mankind. Our love, sincerity, dedication and devotion to humanity demands an integrated struggle and joint efforts for the establishment of peace. This will enable poor countries to fight against poverty, illiteracy, population explosion and hunger, thus giving birth to a welfare state. A society where people strive to change their own fortune.
In the end, I would like to express my gratitude on behalf of the Abdul Sattar Edhi Foundation and the people of Pakistan to the International Balzan Foundation and its founders for granting me this award in recognition of humanitarian services.
I am always honoured when my services to the poor are recognized at an international level, for many countries of the world have conferred upon me their awards.
But my greatest reward is the smile that flashes on the faces of suffering human beings and the prize money of all these awards has always been utilized in spreading this smile. I myself, am the owner of nothing, except a small 10’x10′ room that my mother left me in the alley I first began my work in, and the two pairs of clothing I wear.