1st International Symposium: Hansen’s Disease and Human Rights [2012/02/09]
1st International Symposium: Hansen’s Disease and Human Rights
Our first international symposium “Hansen’s Disease and Human Rights” was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on February 1 of this year. I wrote an address that was read out to participants on the day of the event.
In my address, I recalled how my first encounter with people affected by Hansen’s disease (commonly known as leprosy) was 45 years ago, in South Korea. That meeting gave me a keen sense of the sorrow and alienation among those people.
Since then, I have been doing my best to contribute to the effort to end the discrimination directed to persons affected by the disease.
Part of this effort, as I explained, involves revising whatever discriminatory laws or institutions that remain in place. But that alone is not enough: we also need to work to uproot the discriminatory customs and practices that have been deeply embedded in society for centuries and will not disappear right away.
An enormous amount of progress has been made toward this goal over the past 50 years or so, thanks to the efforts of governments, NGOs, and countless individuals. People affected with the disease are not asking for charity, but rather the opportunity to realize their individual potential and live a life of dignity.
An English transcript of my message to the symposium are available at the Nippon Foundation website and I encourage you to take a look.