The Vatican is set to host an International Symposium on leprosy in conjunction with World Leprosy Day. The Symposium, titled “Leave No One Behind,” will take place on the last Sunday of January at the Vatican and will bring together around 200 people from 45 countries, including persons affected by leprosy, human rights experts, WHO officials, NGO representatives, as well as representatives of the Catholic Church and other major faiths.
The goal of the symposium is to examine the progress made against leprosy over the past six and a half years and the challenges that remain, providing collaborator with an opportunity to discuss future actions to realize a world free from leprosy and its associated problems.
It is important to note that World Leprosy Day is observed every year on the 30th of January, coinciding with the death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. The aim of celebrating this day is to create awareness against the stigma attached to the disease by making the general community aware that it is a disease spread by a type of bacteria and can be easily cured.
The Claretians Missionaries in India, specifically at the Sumanahalli Center in Bangalore, have been working to raise awareness and reduce the stigma associated with the disease. In 45 years, Sumanahalli has treated over 11,000 persons affected by leprosy. Now about 60 inmates are provided residential care, reaching out to assist nearly 1000 persons in the community. With a focus on mainstreaming persons affected by leprosy, Sumanahalli has developed a program involving education, vocational training, job placement, housing, and marriages. More than 500 cured persons have been employed, and about 300 houses have been built in various parts of Bangalore to rehabilitate them in the community.
The Claretians will be inaugurating the Leprosy Fortnight program on Monday, January 30th; Fr. George Kannanthanam and Tomy Urumbumkuzhiyil are the two Claretians currently working at the center. The Symposium and Leprosy Fortnight program serve as important opportunities to raise awareness and mobilize action to eliminate leprosy as a public health threat.