Dr Ruth Pfau, the epitome of devotion and selflessness, passed away at the age of 87 in Karachi late on Wednesday night. Few individuals can match the dedication and heroism of Dr Pfau.
Dr Ruth came to Pakistan from Germany in 1960 with the Daughter of the Heart of Mary, a congregation of nuns of which she was a member. She stalled her initial plan of going to India once she saw the severe suffering of the leprosy patients here in Pakistan.
After 28 years of calling Pakistan home and serving leprosy, Dr Ruth was granted Pakistani citizenship. Before that, in 1979, she was awarded the Hilal-i-Imtiaz — the second highest civilian award of the country. In 1989, she was presented the Hilal-i-Pakistan.
Because of Dr Ruth’s single-handed efforts, the World Health Organisation declared Pakistan one of the first countries in Asia to have controlled leprosy.
A woman driven by compassion and the humble desire of making a difference, Dr Ruth will be remembered as a guardian angel of lepers in Pakistan. What sets her apart and makes her an unmatchable hero is her undying conviction — the same conviction with which she left her home country, travelled across to a foreign space and lay down her hat. The conviction with which she held onto the uncertain nature of her work and also an unfamiliar milieu in which she operated despite many challenges and hurdles.
In her legendary life and, now in her death, we find many lessons. We must reevaluate our ways and incorporate compassion and sensitivity towards our fellow human beings. To honour her legacy, continue her work and support her cause, the government must allocate sufficient funds to her organisation.
PM Abbasi deserves appreciation for announcing a state funeral for this extraordinary Pakistani citizen.
In the meantime, the flame she lit, must keep burning.
Rest in Power, Dr Ruth. *
Published in Daily Times, August 11th 2017.