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Web-only Exclusives
November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

Asiaweek Time Asia Now Asiaweek story

PASSAGE


DEATH OF A FRIEND OF THE POOR:

MOTHER TERESA, 87, ALBANIAN-BORN founder of the Roman Catholic religious order Missionaries of Charity; of a heart attack; at the Mission's headquarters in Calcutta; Sept. 5. "I am a little pencil in the hands of God," Mother Teresa often told interviewers who asked about the future of her order. "God shows his humility by making use of instruments as weak and imperfect as we are. I am small. He will find someone smaller." She had been saying more or less the same thing for nearly 50 years. Her message, whether to heads of state in banquet halls or to journalists at her sickbed, was that she was placed on earth to feed, nurse and comfort the poorest of the poor. She said she had no choice in her calling, and had to follow the path set for her by God, even if her work sometimes brought as much criticism as praise.

As befits a woman with a world reputation, her life was not without controversy. She was sometimes portrayed as harmful to the very people she dedicated herself to helping. Her uncompromising opposition to abortion -- she called it murder -- and artificial birth control attracted the most criticism. To some, she seemed almost to revel in the poverty sired by unbridled procreation. She never wavered in her basic beliefs, and was an associate of Pope John Paul II, for whom she traveled as an envoy. She won the 1962 Ramon Magsaysay Award and the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize, but did not let the world's attention divert her from her mission. "I won't mix in politics," she told Navin Chawla, author of the respected biography, Mother Teresa. "War is the fruit of politics, so I don't involve myself, that is all. If I get stuck in politics, I will stop loving." In 1996, half a million families were fed by the order, a quarter-million sick were treated and 20,000 slum children were schooled. The Missionaries of Charity runs hostels for lepers, AIDS patients, the crippled and mentally handicapped, unwed mothers, abandoned children, alcoholics, drug abusers. Members visit prisons, hospitals and the housebound. They provide night shelters, day crÉches, soup kitchens and TB clinics.

Mother Teresa was fitted with a pacemaker in 1989. Tiny and almost bent double, she had become increasingly frail in recent months. She was resuscitated in August last year after suffering heart failure. A heart attack followed. Her condition was complicated by pneumonia and malaria. She continued to be given oxygen three times a day until she died. Her order is now made up of about 2,500 nuns backed by 400 brothers in more than 100 countries. She stood down as its head in March when her health deteriorated. The Indian government proclaimed two days of state mourning in her honor.


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AsiaNow


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