‘Pakistan’s Mother Teresa’ Honored With Historic Funeral

The medical missionary who helped curb the leprosy outbreak is the first Christian woman to receive this government honor.

For the first time in Pakistan’s recent history, a Christian is being honored with a state funeral. Dr. Ruth Pfau, a German-born nun who lived in Pakistan for over 50 years and adopted it as her homeland, died earlier this month at age 87.

Prime Minister, Shahid Abbasi announced the state funeral for “Pakistan’s Mother Teresa” in recognition of the Catholic physician’s monumental contribution in controlling the spread of leprosy in Pakistan.

“Pfau may have been born in Germany, [but] her heart was always in Pakistan,” Abbasi told Gulf News. “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.”

A notification issued by Atif Aziz, Sindh law deputy secretary, said that “the national flag shall fly at half-mast on Saturday, August 19,” in her honor. She is reported to be one of the only Christians and the first Christian woman to ever be accorded a state funeral in the Muslim-majority nation.

The World Health Organization set the year 2000 as the target for controlling leprosy; Pakistan achieved it four years earlier, in 1996, becoming the first country in Asia to have successfully controlled the spread of the disease—a goal Pfau achieved almost single-handedly.

“Not all of us can prevent a war; but most of us can help ease sufferings—of the body and the soul,” said Pfau, who was inspired to become a doctor after World War II. She was born into a Lutheran family, converted to evangelicalism in college, then joined the Catholic …

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