Sindh CM seeks permission for state funeral for Ruth Pfau

Evrard Martin
Août 12, 2017

A few days prior, she had been hospitalized in Karachi due to complications related to old age.

"In a society where people tend to avoid any contact with a leprosy patient it was the Pakistan's Mother Teresa who helped cleaned the deformed patients and provided them decent employment opportunities, a rehabilitated patient of MALC remarked".

Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said Sister Ruth would be remembered "for her courage, her loyalty, her service to the eradication of leprosy, and most of all, her patriotism".

"Sister Ruth was a model of total dedication".

Dr. Pfau, while not widely covered in the Western media, was renowned in Pakistan for her efforts to stop the spread of leprosy, a bacterial infection also called Hansen's disease that when untreated can cause disfigurement and blindness.

Harald Meyer-Porzky from the Ruth Pfau Foundation in Würzburg said Sister Pfau had "given hundreds of thousands of people a life of dignity".

She studied medicine at universities in Mainz and Marburg before joining the Catholic order of the Daughters of the Heart of Mary, the organization that sent her overseas as a missionary.

After the war, with Leipzig under Soviet occupation, Dr. Pfau fled from East to West Germany to pursue her medical training, according to her biography on the website of the Marie Adelaide Leprosy Centre.

After joining the Daughters of the Heart of Mary, Sister Pfau was sent to India to join a mission in 1960. But before she began her work there, a visa snafu left her stuck in Karachi. She convinced the government and then bosses of the health care management system to start a National Leprosy Control Programme in partnership with Marie Adelaide Leprosy Center (MALC). "Actually the first patient who really made me decide was a young Pathan", she told Lobel. Speaking to the BBC in 2010, she recalled watching a young man as he "crawled on hands and feet into this dispensary, acting as if this was quite normal, as if someone has to crawl there through that slime and dirt on hands and feet, like a dog". She spent more than a half century of public service and finally went on his eternal journey.

She was also known for rescuing children with leprosy, who had been banished to caves and cattle pens for years by their parents, who were afraid of contracting the disease themselves.

With Pfau's help, Pakistan was able to declare leprosy under control in 1996. The Dawn daily reported in 2016 that the number of those under treatment for leprosy fell to 531 from more than 19,000 in the 1980s. "Leprosy elimination is successfully being achieved; however, elimination is not the end of leprosy", said Pfau at the time.

Through the letter he sought a state funeral from the president in her honor and recognition of her invaluable service to Pakistan. In 1979, the Pakistani government appointed her Federal Advisor on Leprosy to the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare. The government of Pakistan bestowed her with Sitara-e-Pakistan, Hilal-e-Pakistan and Hilal-e-Imtiaz for her invaluable contributions.

She also authored several books about her experiences, including To Light A Candle, which has been translated into English.

"We are happy that the government is according her a state funeral on August 19", the archbishop said, noting it would be at St. Patrick's Cathedral in Karachi.

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