I was truly honored by the presence of Prime Minister Abe, who took pains to attend the event after hours of heated deliberations in the Diet (Parliament) earlier in the day. Reflecting on the nation’s past segregation policy, he told participants that the government has offered apologies and assistance to persons affected by Hansen’s disease−as leprosy is known in Japan−and their families, and implemented measures to recover their honor and help them re-integrate into society.
“I have a high hope that the message of this gathering towards an inclusive society will reach the entire world,” Mr. Abe said, expressing his wish that the event will provide “an opportunity for people around the world to develop a correct understanding of Hansen’s disease, and greatly eradicate prejudice and discrimination related to the disease in our thoughts and actions.”
Global Appeal 2020 was read out by Ms. Miki Matheson, a gold medalist at 1998 Nagano Paralympic Winter Games and now Project Manager at The Nippon Foundation Paralympic Support Center, and Mr. Yukinobu Ike, the captain of the Japanese Wheelchair Rugby Team.
Toward the end of the ceremony, I was truly moved by a special collaborative musical performance by two talented artists, the blind singer-songwriter Mr. Koshi Kishita, who is known as the Stevie Wonder of Japan, and Ms. Manami Ito, a Paralympian, nurse and violinist, who played using a specially-made prosthetic arm.
Prior to the ceremony, the Sasakawa Health Foundation, The Nippon Foundation’s partner group, organized a roundtable discussion on the theme “Difference Is Natural,” as part of the events related to Global Appeal 2020.
Beginning in 2006, The Nippon Foundation has issued an annual Global Appeal to End Stigma and Discrimination against Persons Affected by Leprosy, joined each year by influential individuals and organizations on or near World Leprosy Day, which falls on the last Sunday of every January.
Its message is threefold: leprosy is curable, free treatment is available around the world, and discrimination against persons affected by leprosy has no place. Over the years, this message has been endorsed by political, business, academic and religious leaders around the world, among others.
I sincerely hope that the participants in the ceremony, including persons with disabilities and those affected by leprosy, as well as people around the world, will act together in aiming for an inclusive society and an end to stigma and discrimination against persons affected by leprosy.
Global Appeal 2020 was read out by Ms. Miki Matheson (center right), Project Manager at The Nippon Foundation Paralympic Support Center, and Mr. Yukinobu Ike (center left), the captain of the Japanese Wheelchair Rugby Team.Mr. Koshi Kishita (left), the blind singer-songwriter who is known as the Stevie Wonder of Japan, singing “Amazing Grace,” accompanied by Mr. Ichiro Hashimoto, a sign language performer.Ms. Manami Ito, a Paralympian, nurse and violinist, performs using a specially-made prosthetic right arm.