Karachi (AsiaNews) - Ruth Pfau is a small frail woman, with gray hair swept into a bun under a white veil with a border of flowers, standing in a refugee camp that she herself has created for people in flood-devastated Pakistan that has been deprived of everything. She is an 81 year-old German nun of the Daughters of the Heart of Mary, and she cares for hundreds of people whose homes were swept away by floods. For the past two months she and her team have been looking after all those who have sought refuge in a vacant lot near a bus station, Ruth and her aides supply tents, food, water, medicine, and run a school.
"We are the only ones who go into these camps where, for one reason or another, no one else seems to want or to be able to help these poor people," says Ruth Pfau. Ruth Pfau, who is also a trained doctor, has opened clinics for lepers in Pakistan. She is also one of the few to help the Hindu minority affected by the flood of. She began her work more than 50 years ago, confronting the problem of leprosy, saving children hidden in caves and barns, abandoned by parents shocked and terrified they were contagious, while their suffering and illness worsened.Ruth Pfau has trained doctors from Pakistan and obtained donations from abroad. " Working with Dr Pfau is very, very difficult, because she has such immense stamina, that I don't think anyone can match ", says national coordinator Merwyn Lobo, who has travelled with her for over eleven years. Born in Germany, in Leipzig, in 1929, Ruth Pfau grew up fearing for her life first from allied bombing, and then when the Russians arrived in the city. She risked he life to flee from East Germany. She says: " If I give any sense to these years, it is a preparation to be ready to help others”. After completing a medical degree and joining a French Order, she decided to leave for India. But she was forced to stop in Pakistan due to an issue over visas, and in that time saw Leprosy, a disease that she did not know existed.
She provided assistance to more than 50,000 patients in her 157 centres across the country. Every year, 12,000 patients with tuberculosis are treated and some 7,000 cataract operations are performed. Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbassi announced a state ceremony. Sr Pfau received the highest honours in the Islamic Republic. For Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, "It's a big loss. We must continue her mission."
Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi orders a state funeral for the nun, deemed a national hero. Muslims express their condolences. For writer and researcher Kakkazai Aamir, “we must pray to earn a small place” next to her. Hamza Arshad, a Muslim educator, calls Ruth Pfau “an angel of mercy for Pakistan." Inam Rana, lawyer and editor at the online Mukaalma newspaper, describes the nun as “a symbol of love, humanity and sacrifice." For the Justice and Peace Commission of the Pakistani Bishops' Conference, "her services to humanity were a pure manifestation of God's divine love".