TOKYO, March 27, 2014 /CNW/ - It would be hard to overstate the
rapturous welcome given to the Dalai Lama when he visited a community
of people affected by leprosy in India recently. The feeling was
clearly mutual. "Dear brothers and sisters, I am extremely happy to
come here and see you," the spiritual leader told a crowd of 500 at the
Kasturba Gram Colony in Tahirpur Leprosy Complex, New Delhi, on March
After clasping hands with as many people as time permitted, the Dalai
Lama gave an address that resonated with his audience. "Seven billion
human beings are all equal," he said. "People should not look down on
others. It is totally wrong. Discrimination is a sin."
Discrimination is something that people affected by leprosy know only
too well. Their disease pushes them to the margins of society, denying
them opportunities for education and employment, destroying marriages
and restricting access to healthcare and social amenities. Even after
treatment, the stigma can last a lifetime.
In the face of leprosy's challenges, the Dalai Lama urged his audience
never to lose hope and to go forward with "courage and
self-confidence." In a show of support, he promised to donate Rs. 1
million (approximately US$16,400) to Kasturba Gram as well as a portion
of royalties from his book sales over the next five years.
India has some 850 self-settled leprosy colonies that are home to around
200,000 people. Recognizing the need for these communities to speak
with a common voice, in 2006 the Nippon Foundation supported the
establishment of a nationwide network now known as the Association of
People Affected by Leprosy.
"Leprosy is not hereditary. It is not highly infectious. It is not a
dangerous disease," said APAL's president, V. Narsappa, "There is no
need to isolate us. We are equal members of society." He also called
for the discriminatory term 'leper' not to be used.
The Dalai Lama's visit took place at the suggestion of Nippon Foundation
Chairman and WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination Yohei
Sasakawa, who underlined its significance. "I am certain that the words
we have heard today from His Holiness will give tremendous
encouragement to people affected by leprosy and their families across
India and throughout the world," he said.
SOURCE: The Nippon Foundation
For further information:
The Nippon Foundation