We lost Abdul Sattar Edhi, a fatherly figure for the working poor and underclass Pakistanis. This immense loss had hardly elapsed when on August 10th; Dr. Ruth Pfau, the lepers’ messiah, the angel of Manghopir left this mortal world for an endless journey.
The country feels orphan without her.
Leprosy patients, who were praying their hearts out for Pfaus’ health at Marie Adelaide Leprosy Centre (MALC) in Karachi, went into stunned silence when the news of her death aired on TV.
Many cried like never before. These were those abandoned by their own families due to sickness yet embraced by the magic healer. Those tears were for their Amma (mother), who was now gone forever.
Those tears were in memory of the moments they shared with her, the ONLY shoulder to cry on, the only friend to exchange smiles with, and their only relative in this world.
She had been there for them like always — but not anymore.
Who Was Dr. Ruth Pfau?
Sister Dr. Ruth Katherina Martha Pfau was a German physician and a nun of the Society of Daughters of the Heart of Mary. Dr. Ruth Pfau dedicated fifty precious years of her life to treating leprosy patients in Pakistan.
Journey from Germany to Pakistan
It was a beautiful, breezy evening of March 8th, 1960 when Dr. Pfau stopped in Karachi while on her way to India for assignment as a nun with the Daughters of the Heart of Mary. She was supposed to move to Afghanistan with the team.
While in the city, she visited a leper colony off McLeod Road (now II Chundrigar Road), and this is where her life took a decisive turn. She resolved not to move with the Heart of Mary crew and to stay here and dedicate her life to treating leprosy.
Dr. Ruth Pfau then founded the Marie Adelaide Leprosy Center in Karachi. This seed grew up quickly into a shady tree to spread its branches into all four provinces including Gilgit-Baltistan.
The organisation has spread across the country with over 150 centres. Over 50,000 families have been treated since the inception of the centre.
Owing to her tireless efforts, in 1996, Pakistan was declared as one of the first countries to have controlled leprosy. The nation owes her big.
Dr. Ruth Pfau, who was also known as the Angel of Manghopir, had understood that leprosy does not just cause physical symptoms, but psychological ones as well due to societal attitude towards people with the disfiguring disease.
She therefore added extra dose of love and care in her treatment which would bring a messiah’s touch and helped her patients heal quicker than usual. She would always say: “Love will always have the last word.”
Hailing from Swabi, Aminzada said with tearful eyes that they could have been out on the streets, yearning for death, if Dr. Ruth Pfau was not here. “No amount of appreciation can justify the work Dr. Pfau did for humanity.”
“Due to our frustration with our disease, we would sometimes vent by yelling at her, but she would not say anything. Her personality cannot be described in words.”
Another patient of MALC, Qasim belongs to Kohat. He believes Dr Pfau was an angel sent by God to help his people. “Besides treating us for free, she would even try to help us financially from her own pocket. She ensured that we feel like home here. No problem could trouble us.”
Dr. Ruth Pfau’s Assets – Love and Respect
Pfau might have lost count of the accolades she had received during her 50 years of service as a leprosy healer; here we have some of her most notable awards.
Her efforts in the war against leprosy have been recognised across the world.
Her tireless endeavours helped bring down the leprosy rate in Pakistan by over 97 percent, and the disease was recognised as ‘controlled’ in the country in 1996.
Dr. Pfau may have been born in Germany; but her heart was always in the country. The government of Pakistan has therefore announced a state funeral for her on August 19th in recognition of her services to her adopted homeland. She’ll be laid to rest among the tears, love and respect, as she would always say: “Love will always have the last word.”
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