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13 August 2017, 01:53 | Melissa Porter
Ruth Pfau in 2004
Sister Ruth Pfau, a German-born Catholic missionary who devoted her life to eradicating leprosy in Pakistan, died Thursday at the age of 87.
She joined the Society of Daughters of the Heart of Mary and was assigned to go to India but landed in Karachi for a brief stay due to some visa problems. For over five decades, this incredible woman travelled all over Pakistan - and even areas of Afghanistan - to rescue patients who had been abandoned or worse: locked away like monsters.
It was after the horrors of World War II in her native Germany that Pfau chose to dedicate her life to serving humanity, becoming a doctor and joining the Daughters of the Heart of Mary order, founded during the French Revolution. She left her homeland and made Pakistan her home to serve humanity. Our history is a history of immigration and courage and much more kindness than we could have ever expected from complete strangers.
German-born nun Ruth Pfau attends a press conference at Marie Adelaide Leprosy Centre in Karachi, Pakistan January 25, 2014. "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".
Not required to take the veil or live in seclusion, she ended up in Pakistan by chance.
Dr Pfau first visited Pakistan in 1960 and was so touched by the plight of leprosy victims that she made a decision to stay forever in the country to treat them. She founded the Marie Adelaide Leprosy Centre in Karachi, Pakistan's first hospital dedicated to treating the disease, which today has 157 branches across the country. "The Pakistani nation pays tribute to Dr Pfau's selfless efforts", the president said.
Harald Meyer-Porzky from the Ruth Pfau Foundation in Würzburg said Sister Pfau had "given hundreds of thousands of people a life of dignity".
In a statement, the office of Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi announced a state funeral for Pfau, known as "Pakistan's Mother Teresa". "It was an arranged marriage because it was necessary", she told Lobel.
In dwelling on Dr Pfau's trajectory, a parallel that comes to mind is Abdul Sattar Edhi, who passed away previous year and was the first citizen in a quarter of a century to be given a state funeral. In 1979, the Pakistani government appointed her Federal Advisor on Leprosy to the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare. "Her services will never be forgotten".
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