Ruth Pfau

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Sister Ruth Pfau
Sister Ruth Pfau.jpg
Born Ruth Katherina Martha Pfau
(1929-09-09)9 September 1929
Leipzig, Germany
Died 10 August 2017(2017-08-10) (aged 87)
Karachi, Pakistan
Resting place Karachi, Pakistan
Nationality German, Pakistani
Occupation Nun, physician, writer
Known for Founder, Marie Adelaide Leprosy Centre
Notable work National Leprosy Control Program in Pakistan
Awards Sitara-i-Quaid-i-Azam
Hilal-i-Imtiaz
Hilal-i-Pakistan
Ramon Magsaysay Award
Nishan-i-Quaid-i-Azam

Sister Dr Ruth Katherina Martha Pfau[1] (9 September 1929 – 10 August 2017) was a German-Pakistani[2] physician and nun of the Society of Daughters of the Heart of Mary. She devoted nearly 50 years of her life to fighting leprosy in Pakistan.

Early life[edit]

Pfau was born in Leipzig, Germany, on 9 September 1929[3] from Protestant parents.[4][5] She had four sisters and one brother. Her home was destroyed by bombing during World War II.[6] Following the post-war Soviet occupation of East Germany she escaped to West Germany along with her family, and chose medicine as her future career.[7] During the 1950s, she studied medicine at the University of Mainz.[8] During this time, Pfau met several times with a Dutch Christian woman, who was a concentration camp survivor and currently dedicated her life to "preaching love and forgiveness". After "her life-changing experience", Pfau left "a romantic association" with a fellow student, got involved in discussions in the Mainz's philosophy and classical literature department,[5] and she was baptized as an Evangelicals—before her conversion to Catholicism.[9] After completing her clinical examination, Dr Pfau moved to Marburg. There she carried on with her clinical studies, joined a Catholic parish, and she was greatly influenced by Romano Guardini's The Lord in this period.[5]

In 1957,[9] she joined the Daughters of the Heart of Mary, a Catholic order, in Paris.[5] She said, "When you receive such a calling, you cannot turn it down, for it is not you who has made the choice. ... God has chosen you for himself."[9] The order later sent her to southern India; however, in 1960,[9] a visa issue meant she became stuck in Karachi.[10] She travelled to various parts of Pakistan[11] and across the border to Afghanistan[12] to rescue patients who were abandoned by their families or locked in small rooms for a lifetime.

Life in Pakistan[edit]

Not all of us can prevent a war; but most of us can help ease sufferings—of the body and the soul.

— Ruth Pfau[7]

In 1960, aged 31, she decided to dedicate the rest of her life to the people of Pakistan and their battle against leprosy outbreaks. While in Karachi, by chance she visited the Lepers’ Colony behind McLeod Road (now I. I. Chundrigar Road) near the City Railway Station.[13] Here she decided that the care of patients would be her life's calling. She started with medical treatment for the leprosy patients in a hut in this slum. The Marie Adelaide Leprosy Centre[14] was founded (which later branched out into tuberculosis and blindness prevention programmes)[13] and social work for the leprosy patients and their family members was started by Dr. I. K. Gill. A Leprosy Clinic was bought in April 1963 and patients from all over Karachi, Pakistan, and even from Afghanistan came for treatment.[15]

In 1979, she was appointed as the Federal Advisor on Leprosy to the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare of Government of Pakistan.[8] Pfau went to distant areas of Pakistan where there were no medical facilities for leprosy patients. She collected donations in Germany and Pakistan and cooperated with hospitals in Rawalpindi and Karachi. In recognition of her service to the country, she was awarded Pakistani citizenship in 1988.[16]

Due to her continued efforts, in 1996, the World Health Organisation declared Pakistan one of the first countries in Asia to have controlled leprosy.[17] The number of leprosy cases nationwide dropped significantly from 19,398 in the early 1980s to 531 in 2016, according to the Dawn.[13]

On 9 September 1999, Archbishop Simeon Anthony Pereira of Karachi celebrated a Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral to celebrate Sr. Pfau’s 70th birthday, which was attended by Christians together with Muslims.[16]

Death[edit]

Early morning on 10 August 2017, around 4:00 a.m. PST, Pfau died at the Aga Khan Hospital in Karachi after being admitted there on 4 August 2017. She was put on a ventilator after her condition worsened on 6 August.[18][19] Pfau had been dealing with several health problems due to her advancing age, including kidney and heart disease,[9] for which she has been undergoing treatment for several years.[19]

Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi announced in a statement that a state funeral would be held for her at Saint Patrick's Cathedral, Karachi on 19 August.[20][10]

Reaction[edit]

President Mamnoon Hussain in a statement said that, “Dr Pfau’s services to end leprosy in Pakistan cannot be forgotten. She left her homeland and made Pakistan her home to serve humanity. Pakistani nation salutes Dr Pfau and her great tradition to serve humanity will be continued.”[21]

Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan said, “Dr Ruth Pfau may have been born in Germany, [but] her heart was always in Pakistan.” He further added that, “she came here at the dawn of a young nation looking to make lives better for those afflicted by disease, and in doing so, found herself a home. We will remember her for her courage, her loyalty, her service to the eradication of leprosy, and most of all, her patriotism.”[21]

Chief of Army Staff Qamar Bajwa referred to Pfau as an "ambassador of humanity".[19]

Awards and recognition[edit]

Sister Pfau is recognised in Pakistan and abroad as a distinguished human being and had been awarded many awards and medals. On 23 March 1989, Pfau received the Hilal-i-Pakistan award presented by the then-President of Pakistan Ghulam Ishaq Khan at the President House for her work with leprosy patients.[22]

Speaking at a function in Islamabad on 30 January 2000, to mark the 47th World Leprosy Day, the then-President Rafiq Tarar praised Pfau, who built up the National Leprosy Control Program in Pakistan, for working not only for those afflicted with leprosy, but also for those with tuberculosis.[23] In 2006, Pfau was honoured as the 'Woman of the Year 2006' by City FM89.[24]

On 14 August 2010, on the occasion of Pakistan's Independence Day, the then-President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari awarded Pfau the Nishan-i-Quaid-i-Azam for public service.[25] She was hailed as Pakistan's "Mother Teresa" after her work towards helping people displaced by the 2010 Pakistan floods.[6] In 2015, Pfau was awarded the Staufer Medal, the highest award of the German state of Baden-Württemberg.[26]

Honours[edit]

Books[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f Doctor of Science (DSc), honoris causa, awarded to Dr. Ruth Katherina Martha Pfau Archived 27 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine. Aga Khan University, Karachi Retrieved 6 July 2010.
  2. ^ Dr. Pfau to be honoured today, DailyTimes.com.pk, 11 April 2003; retrieved 6 July 2010.
  3. ^ "DR. RUTH PFAU". Ruth-pfau.schule.de. Retrieved 2017-08-10. 
  4. ^ "Sister Ruth Pfau, 'Mother Teresa of Pakistan' – obituary". The Telegraph. August 14, 2017. 
  5. ^ a b c d Aqeel, Asif (August 12, 2017). "Master of her own destiny, saviour of others". Daily Times. 
  6. ^ a b Lobel, Mark (2 November 2010). "Pakistan's 'Mother Teresa' saving flood victims". BBC News. Retrieved 10 August 2017. 
  7. ^ a b Rahman, Faiza (2 March 2014). "Dr Ruth Pfau: The magic healer". Express Tribune. Retrieved 11 August 2017. 
  8. ^ a b "State funeral announced for Dr Ruth Pfau". The News International. 10 August 2017. Retrieved 10 August 2017. 
  9. ^ a b c d e Roberts, Sam (August 15, 2017). "Dr. Ruth Pfau, Savior of Lepers in Pakistan, Dies at 87". The New York Times. Retrieved August 16, 2017. 
  10. ^ a b "Ruth Pfau: Pakistan's 'Mother Teresa' dies aged 87". BBC News. 10 August 2017. 
  11. ^ Kazi, Mudaser (10 August 2017). "Pakistan's magic healer Dr Ruth Pfau passes away". Express Tribune. Retrieved 11 August 2017. 
  12. ^ Rafi, Haneen (22 December 2015). "Dr Ruth Pfau honoured by German govt". Dawn. Retrieved 11 August 2017. 
  13. ^ a b c Mustafa, Zubeida (9 June 2017). "Candle of hope". Dawn (newspaper). Retrieved 10 August 2017. 
  14. ^ "History". Retrieved 10 August 2017. 
  15. ^ "Leprosy in Pakistan contained, says Dr Ruth Pfau". Dawn.com. Retrieved 10 August 2017. 
  16. ^ a b German Catholic nun feted on her 70th birthday for her ongoing work to eradicate leprosy in Pakistan", UCANews, 1 October 1999.
  17. ^ "Dr Ruth Pfau: Light to Pakistan's lepers". Dawn (newspaper). 20 March 2014. Retrieved 11 August 2017. 
  18. ^ Kazi, Mudaser (9 August 2017). "Pakistani lepers' messiah Dr Ruth Pfau hospitalised and her condition's worsening". Express Tribune. Retrieved 10 August 2017. 
  19. ^ a b c "Light to Pakistan's leprosy patients, Dr Ruth Pfau passes away in Karachi". DAWN. 10 August 2017. 
  20. ^ "Why Pakistan is mourning loss of German nun Ruth Pfau". Al Jazeera. 10 August 2017. 
  21. ^ a b Jamal, Sana (10 August 2017). "Pakistan’s ‘Mother Teresa’ dies at 87". Gulf News. Retrieved 11 August 2017. 
  22. ^ "Pakistan German, Dutch Sisters Get Pakistan National Day Awards". UCANews.com. 4 April 1989. Retrieved 10 August 2017. 
  23. ^ "President commends nuns in battling leprosy and tuberculosis". UCANews.com. 7 February 2000. Retrieved 10 August 2017. 
  24. ^ "Woman of the year honour for Dr Ruth Pfau". Dawn (newspaper). 9 March 2006. Retrieved 11 August 2017. 
  25. ^ Press List of civil awards on the occasion of Independence Day Archived 16 February 2015 at the Wayback Machine., pid.gov.pk, 14 August 2010.
  26. ^ "Dr Ruth Pfau awarded German Staufer Medal". Express Tribune. 22 December 2015. Retrieved 10 August 2017. 
  27. ^ "The Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation • Honoring greatness of spirit and transformative leadership in Asia". Rmaf.org.ph. Retrieved 10 August 2017. 
  28. ^ "List of civil awards". Pid.gov.pk. Archived from the original on 16 February 2015. Retrieved 10 August 2017. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Mutaher, Zia (2004). Serving the Unserved: The Life of Dr. Ruth Pfau. Karachi: City Press. ISBN 9698380728.