WILLS POINT, TX – Gospel for Asia (GFA World, founded by Dr. K.P. Yohannan) issues the second part of a Special Report update on the current progress in the fight for zero leprosy, and how we can eliminate this disease and it’s stigma on a personal level.
Zero Leprosy: A Human Rights Issue
Advocates for zero leprosy are active on the social battle-front as well. The shunning and discrimination experienced by people with leprosy are gradually being recognized as an issue of human rights, not only the result of a medical problem, which means appropriate actions can be taken to combat the issue.
“Persons affected by leprosy and their families have been subjected to serious human rights violations,” she says. “They have been denied their dignity and their basic human rights; subjected to stigmatizing language, segregation, separation from their families, and separation within the household, even from their children.”
Alice and many others are calling upon nations to take action on behalf of leprosy-afflicted individuals and their families, making it known that social rejection of leprosy patients is needless and unacceptable.
Groups such as the Global Partnership for Zero Leprosy and International Federation of Anti-Leprosy Associations (ILEP) are working at an international level to eliminate leprosy, in part by changing the way people with Hansen’s disease are perceived by society.
ILEP maintains careful watch on the 136 policies globally that promote or enable discrimination against people afflicted with leprosy and seeks to help those policies change. These legislations range from permitting divorce and expelling students from universities to requiring that individuals with leprosy be deported. It’s hard to believe that people infected with a completely curable disease can be legally deported in parts of the world, but that is the reality of the extreme fear and stigma linked to leprosy.
In addition to seeking changes in laws regarding people with Hansen’s disease, ILEP is also influencing people’s everyday approach to leprosy. When writing about leprosy and the people whom it affects, they adhere to strict guidelines as to the terminology, imagery and photography used. They reach out to media sources to encourage them to alter their pieces to ensure that people with leprosy are treated with respect and dignity. ILEP challenges everyone to do the same, even providing samples of how to respectfully request someone to change their terminology.
Eliminating Stigma on a Personal Level
Legislation regarding how society should interact with people with leprosy is extremely important, but even so, changing deeply ingrained attitudes is ultimately up to the individual; a law cannot create love in a person’s heart toward others. Each person must overcome obstacles on a personal, intimate level—and Jesus can help them do that.
Gospel for Asia-supported workers have been showing love and respect toward leprosy patients for decades. Their love for Jesus helps them overcome their cultures’ normal attitudes toward those with leprosy, and now they serve as powerful examples to many communities across Asia.
Workers at a Gospel for Asia (GFA)-supported hospital for leprosy patients witness on a daily basis the emotional needs of people afflicted with Hansen’s disease. When asked how patients respond to the kindness demonstrated by hospital workers, GFA’s field correspondent explained that deep bonds frequently develop. The patients receive their caregivers as sons and daughters, welcoming them into their lives in place of the biological family that spurned them. Being seen for who they are and not what disease they have gives these patients courage to press on and live a life with hope.
At a medical camp organized to bless a leprosy colony in another part of Asia in honor of World Leprosy Day, children from a Gospel for Asia (GFA)-supported Bridge of Hope center performed a skit for the colony residents. These children are learning from a young age to respond to leprosy patients with compassion rather than with fear, with kindness instead of rejection. Most of the people living in this colony had already been cured of leprosy, but their damaged limbs caused their society to spurn them anyway. Although their families and society reject these leprosy patients, these children and national workers showed them the dignity they deserve as human beings bearing God’s image.
Each person who gains an honoring viewpoint toward those afflicted with leprosy is another voice for change, one more compassionate heart to aid those in need and one more step bringing us closer to eliminating leprosy.
Through the diligent efforts of scientists, medical workers, policy makers and compassionate citizens around the globe, we see exciting new advances in the fight against leprosy. The battle is not yet won, but we are better equipped to press in and overcome this devastating disease.
A speaker at the International Leprosy Congress summarized the global leprosy situation well: “The last mile in the work of leprosy, it can be accomplished. We absolutely can do this, but we can only do it together.”
What can you do to help eliminate leprosy?
- Pray for successful preventative medical treatments.
- Lift up the Gospel for Asia (GFA)-supported workers and all the other men and women who are helping change society’s perception of those afflicted with leprosy.
- Be a positive voice toward those with Hansen’s disease.
- Encourage others to partner with organizations serving people afflicted with leprosy.
We live in an amazing era where eradicating devastating diseases is possible. Let’s celebrate the triumphs already won in the fight against leprosy and press on toward global leprosy elimination!
Progress in the Fight Against Leprosy — Leprosy Prevention is Key to Elimination: Part 1
Read another Special Report from Gospel for Asia on Leprosy: Misunderstandings.
Learn more about the GFA-supported leprosy ministry, or the Reaching Friends Ministry, helping remind people affected by leprosy that, despite the stigma of leprosy, they have dignity and are valued by God.
Click here, to read more blogs on Patheos from Gospel for Asia.
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