NUN´S LEPROSY SERVICE A CHRISTIAN WINDOW TO MUSLIMS KARACHI, Pakistan (UCAN) -- A German Catholic nun was feted on her 70th birthday for her ongoing work to eradicate leprosy in Pakistan, a service that she says has afforded Muslims in the country a peek at Christianity.

1999-10-01 00:00:00

According to Sister Ruth Pfau, leprosy service has been "a Christian window to our Muslim brothers and sisters, an opportunity to discover, in a common service rendered, that we have more in common than what divides us."

In a message for her birthday celebration, marked with a Mass at Karachi´s St. Patrick´s Cathedral, the Daughters of the Heart of Mary nun stressed that "her" achievements have been the result of teamwork and God´s grace.

She said that when people of various creeds, races and ethnic groups pledge to work together as a team, God does wonderful miracles.

Christians and Muslims alike attended the Sept. 9 service at which Archbishop Simeon Pereira of Karachi prayed, "May God give you many more years of life, so that you may inspire us to carry on your work."

The archbishop noted that Sister Pfau began her work in Pakistan some 40 years ago by looking around to see what were the needs of the poor, and that it did not take her long to focus on work with people with leprosy.

He added that leprosy was then a despised disease and people were afraid even to go near someone with it lest they become infected.

Sister Pfau began serving people with leprosy in 1960, shortly after she arrived in Pakistan from her native Germany, and has built up the Marie Adelaide Leprosy Centre in Karachi into a nationally recognized institution.

In recognition of her service to the country, she was awarded Pakistani citizenship in 1988. A year later the Pakistani government conferred on her the Hilal-e-Pakistan (crescent of Pakistan) award, one of its highest honors.

She was also awarded the Commander´s Cross of the Order of Merit from the Federal Republic of Germany.

The Marie Adelaide center, which Sister Pfau said began as a makeshift "wooden box" in a leprosy patients´ colony amid garbage heaps, has become the cornerstone of the National Leprosy Control Program.

The center in Karachi, Pakistan´s largest city, is now a referral hospital for leprosy patients. It can accommodate more than 80 in-patients and serves an average of 1,600 out-patients a month.

With 156 leprosy control units all over the country, the center has a combined staff of 850. Of more than 41,000 people with leprosy treated to date, more than 35,000 have been cured.

Last April, the World Health Organization said that the target of reducing the incidence of leprosy to one case per 10,000 people in the Pakistani countryside had been met.


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