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Pakistan’s leaders pay tribute to nun who served lepers

August 11, 2017

A German nun whose life of service to lepers has been compared to Mother Teresa’s died on August 10 at the age of 87.

Born in 1929, Sister Ruth Pfau escaped Soviet-occupied East Germany and graduated from medical school in West Germany. She then joined the Daughters of the Heart of Mary and was sent to India in 1960.

Because of a visa problem, she could not immediately enter India and stayed in Pakistan, where she encountered persons with leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease.

“The first patient who really made me decide [to stay] was a young Pathan,” she recalled. “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.”

As she ministered to lepers, trained doctors, and founded treatment centers, leprosy cases waned, until the World Health Organization declared the disease controlled in Pakistan in 1996. Since then, the number of persons treated for leprosy has fallen to 531.

“Dr. Pfau’s services to end leprosy in Pakistan cannot be forgotten,” said President Mamnoon Hussein. “She left her homeland and made Pakistan her home to serve humanity. The Pakistani nation salutes Dr. Pfau, and her great tradition to serve humanity will be continued.”

“Dr. Ruth Pfau may have been born in Germany, but her heart was always in Pakistan,” added Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who announced that her funeral in Karachi’s cathedral would be a state funeral.

 
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