Birgitta Almeby, the 71-year-old Swedish Christian missionary who was shot in Lahore on December 3 died in a Stockholm hospital on Wednesday night.
Officials at the Full Gospel Assemblies (FGA), the charity Almeby worked for, confirmed her demise to The Express Tribune.
Almeby, who was also diagnosed with dengue fever last year, had refused to leave Pakistan after 38 years of service in the country,
despite repeated requests from her relatives back home.
“Her stance was simple: serve the poor and the downtrodden,” says 73-year-old Rehmat Masih, who, along with his wife Maryam, had been serving Almeby for almost 35 years.
“Birgitta never expressed any threats to her life and moved around the city quite comfortably. Pakistan was her home for so many years and everyone who knew her will vouch for her dedication and commitment to serve the poor,” he said.
Almeby died at the Karolinska Hospital in Stockholm after she was flown back home to Sweden for specialist medical care. Earlier, after being shot in Lahore, she was said to be in a “critical” condition.
Throughout her 35 years in Pakistan, Almeby worked for the missionary service FGA.
The organisation has various projects in Lahore, Faisalabad and other parts of the country including the FGA Bible College, an orphanage and adult literacy and technical education centres.
Almeby also worked for the welfare and rehabilitation of the victims of earthquake and floods, FGA officials said, adding that she had donated Rs30 million for the establishment of a database in the areas hit by the 2005 earthquake.
Liaqat Qaiser, spokesperson for the FGA, said Almeby was managing three orphanages besides teaching at the FGA Bible School. “She was vibrant, despite her age,” he said.
Qaiser, who worked with her for almost 35 years, said she always seemed content with her life in Pakistan.
“She was like a family member to all of us. Her departure has left a vacuum in our lives,” he said. “What is disturbing for us is the thought that she was shot right in front of her house, and lay there unattended for several minutes.”
The neighbour’s driver finally took her to the hospital but by then, she had lost a lot of blood, which proved fatal, he added.
She was flown back home via a special air ambulance on December 10,
Rehmat Masih, who served as Almeby’s housemaid for decades, said he was never treated like one. “She used to look after us, instead of us looking after her. She made sure we felt as if we were living in our own home,” said an emotional Masih.
“These cruel people have killed humanity by shooting that woman who left her country, family, and life to serve Pakistan and its poor,” he added.
Punishing the culprits
Following her demise, Pakistan promised to bring her killers to justice.
“The government of Pakistan conveys its deepest condolences to the government and people of Sweden on the sad demise of Ms Birgitta Almeby,” said a statement issued by the Foreign Office.
The government reiterated its “commitment to make all efforts to conduct a full investigation and to spare no effort to bring the perpetrators to justice.”
Published in The Express Tribune, December 14th, 2012.