Religious leaders in the country have called upon to come to the aid of those affected by leprosy in the society so as to enable them live a meaningful life.
Speaking at a one day symposium in Abuja, Principal Investigator, Leprosy Research Project, Prof. Danny MaCain, lamented the high level of discrimination faced by people affected by the disease.
Prof. MaCain stressed that the Church has a crucial role to play in reducing the stigma.
According to him, “Christianity is often associated with leprosy as caused by sin; therefore, the Church has a crucial role to play in reducing stigma.
Despite increased knowledge about details of leprosy, persons affected by leprosy are often still excluded from community life.’’
Speaking further, Prof. MaCain said that the Nigerian Leprosy Research Department of Religion and Philosophy, University of Jos carried out a study and concluded that to address leprosy related stigma, it is crucial to explore the positive role that the Church could have in increasing acceptance and inclusion of persons affected by leprosy.
Meanwhile, President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Dr Olasupo Ayokunle affirmed that the Church is always willing to help those that are segregated in the society according to Christ injunction.
The President who was represented at the symposium by the Assistant General Secretary of CAN, Bar. Daramola Joseph said the Church will help disseminate information that leprosy is not an incurable disease and that Christians should not discriminate against people affected by leprosy other diseases.
Also speaking at the event that came under the theme, “Role of Christian Religious Leaders in Leprosy and Disability Related Stigma in the Northern Nigeria,” the State Chairman of People Affected by Leprosy, Benue State, Peter Iorkighir, shared his experience.
He recalled how he was dumped and abandoned by his parents at a leprosy colony when he became affected by the disease at the age of 12.
According to him, he was traumatised, but that he said did not deter him from improving himself academically.
In his words: “I decided not beg rather, improved myself because there is ability in disability. I was the first to have O ‘Levels certificate in my family. Today, I am the one responsible for the upkeep of my younger ones. When they run into financial challenges, they come to me for assistance. The rejected stone has become the chief corner stone,” he added.
Similarly, Chief James Adu, Balee of a leprosy colony in Surulere, Isanlu, Kogi state said they are about 500 lepers are living happily in his community.
He however regretted that, discrimination against people living with leprosy is much and advocated that anyone that has been cured of leprosy in the hospital be certificated.
Continuing he said: “when people see leprosy scarce on you, they are skeptical in relating with you, they don’t know that once, you have received treatment , you are whole, this is our plight , we are stigmatised. ”