TOKYO, Dec. 10, 2013 /CNW/ - The leaders of organizations of people
affected by leprosy from nine countries and Yohei Sasakawa, WHO
Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination and Chairman of The Nippon
Foundation, have written to Pope Francis urging the Catholic Church to
speak out against leprosy-related discrimination and labels that
The letter has been prompted by the Pope's use of the term "leprosy" in
reference to aspects of the Church that he seeks to reform. In recent
months he has said that "careerism is a leprosy" and "the court is the
leprosy of the papacy."
In their letter dated December 10, Sasakawa and representatives of
people affected by leprosy from Brazil, Colombia, Ethiopia, Ghana,
India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea and the United States write that
using the disease as a metaphor for something negative or corrupt
"perpetuates deeply ingrained stereotypes and makes it harder to
alleviate the devastating social, economic and psychological impact
that leprosy can have."
Leprosy, also known as Hansen's disease, is a bacterial disease that
mainly affects the skin and peripheral nerves. Left untreated, it can
lead to permanent disability. Around 230,000 new cases are reported
Although the disease is curable and treatment is free, people affected
by leprosy still face discrimination in various parts of the world,
leaving them isolated and marginalized.
In December 2010, the U.N. approved a resolution on elimination of
discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family
members. Accompanying Principles and Guidelines call for an end to the
use of derogatory terminology, urge the media to portray people
affected by leprosy in a dignified way and note the role that religious
leaders can play in eliminating discrimination through their teachings
In their letter, the signatories say they would "welcome a strong call
by the Catholic Church on the occasion of World Leprosy Day 2014 for an
end to stigma and discrimination against people affected by leprosy -
including the use of discriminatory language" - adding that they look
to the Pope with anticipation for such a message.
"All of us are ready to join forces with Your Holiness to attack the
labels that perpetuate stigma."
World Leprosy Day 2014 is January 26.
SOURCE: The Nippon Foundation
For further information:
Public Relations Department
The Nippon Foundation