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Australian missionary widow honoured in Mother Teresa Awards

Australian woman Gladys Staines, Christian missionary to India, has been named one of the 2015 recipients of the Mother Teresa Award for her work towards eradicating leprosy and helping cured patients join mainstream society.


Upon receiving the award Gladys said, “I thank God for His help in enabling me to carry out the work in caring for people with leprosy, even after my husband was killed.”

Gladys Staines receives her award. Credit: The Harmony Foundation

Gladys Staines receives her award. Credit: The Harmony Foundation

Gladys first came to India in 1981, and worked at the Baripada Leprosy Home, where she met and then married her husband Graham. The couple worked with the Evangelical Missionary Society in Mayurbhanj, an organisation founded by an Australian missionary in the late 19th century.

In 1999, Graham and two of their children Timothy and Philip were sleeping in their Jeep in the East Indian state of Orissa when Hindu radicals lit the car on fire, burning the three to death. Gladys was home with her daughter Esther at the time.

Staines made headlines at the time by publicly forgiving the killers: “I have forgiven the killers, but the law must take its own course,” she said.

In an interview with Christianity Today in 2003, she said, “I do feel sad sometimes. I am a woman. But I draw inspiration from God’s Word and console myself, often identifying with women like me who have also lost their children, maybe in accidents, natural calamities.

“If we don’t experience the grace of God, we become bitter. We have to turn to God, not to others. Experience forgiveness and forgive others. Grace is available. Once you forgive, there will be healing.”

Though she contemplated returning to Australia following the death of her husband and sons, she chose to stay in India and continue her work with leprosy patients. She stayed until 2004.

She has been honoured with many awards for her work, including the Ghandi Communal Harmony Award in 2002, the Padma Shri award for Social Service by the Indian Government in 2005, and now the Mother Teresa Award.

Previous recipients of the Mother Teresa Award include Malala Yousafzai, the Dalai Lama, and “Machine Gun Preacher” Sam Childers.