Ruth Pfau

Ruth Pfau, on which the character of »Sister Martha« in »The Days of the Caliphate« is based, has died in Karachi at the age of 87. »And with time, she became, in her way and far from any papal decrees, a holy woman as the missionary had foretold. For soon she was called “Holy Martha” or “Sister of Hope” in the stories and rumours of the camps and slums, the woman who had come from a far-away country to declare an unswerving and merciless war against leprosy, all the way down into the darkest pits of the globe, the irrevocable eradication to the edges of the horizon. And the names of her three archangels were Clofazimine, Dapsone and Rifampicin. For with these three drugs, Sister Martha and her local doctors were soon able to heal many people, to stop the treacherous disease long before it killed the nerves off, to heal or at least slow down the process of final mutilation. Her battle against leprosy became her battle to procure these three drugs. Never was there enough. Sometimes the UN or the DAHW, the German foundation for aid against Leprosy and Tuberculosis, would send her two truckloads in a day. Sometimes she waited in vain for months. It happened that empty trucks would come to the camp, in which, perhaps, pallets of drugs had once stood, drugs that were now bringing money on the black market. Persistent as the devil stalking a religious virgin, she badgered the Pakistani health minister and followed him into the lift of the ministry begging money, material, permissions.«

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