Ruth Pfau, a German physician and nun, was given a state funeral in Karachi on Saturday, an honor Pakistan usually reserves for soldiers and heads of state. Hundreds of mourners came to bid farewell to the woman who helped their country eradicate leprosy.
Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said the official funeral would mark her “selfless and unmatched” services to the country.
Pfau first came to Pakistan in 1960 to dedicate her life to treating leprosy patients, establishing 157 centers dedicated to those suffering from the disease. As cases of leprosy dropped throughout the country, she turned her attention to tuberculosis.
The World Health Organization (WHO) credits Pfau’s efforts for making Pakistan one of the first countries in Asia to be completely free from leprosy.
Pfau became known as “Pakistan’s Mother Theresa” for her work fighting first leprosy and then tuberculosis
died on August 10 at the age of 87, at her Marie Adelaide Leprosy Center in Karachi, which is the capital of Sindh province. The province’s Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah was one of the hundreds of people on hand to watch her coffin be brought to its final resting place in Karachi’s oldest cemetary, Gora Qabaristan.
Her coffin was draped in the Pakistani flag and covered in rose petals, and was accompanied by a 19-gun salute as members of all three branches of the country’s armed forces kept watch. The ceremony was broadcast live on national television.
“There is no one like her and there won’t be any replacement to her. We pray to God to send people like her again to this world so that they could continue serving people,” said Martha Fernando, who worked with Pfau and the Martha Adelaide Leprosy Center.
es/jlw (AP, dpa)