Leprosy - What is That and What Are We Doing About It?
During the second Sunday of the great lent, we commemorate the miracle Jesus performed 2000 years ago, a leper cured of his leprosy.
24-year-old man from Norway,
infected with leprosy, 1886
"Unclean! Unclean!" these were the words of lepers as they announced their presence among the un-afflicted in biblical times. The fear of physical disfigurement and the loss of social status that it brings, has made leprosy one of the most dreaded of all diseases. Lepers have been detested and isolated in colonies, where they live until the end of their lives.
Leprosy is a disease known from ancient times (4000 BC). It causes severe, disfiguring skin sores and nerve damage in the arms and legs. Initially, infections are without symptoms and typically remain this way for 5 to 20 years. Nerve damage and muscle weakness can lead to deformities, crippling, blindness and isolation. We do not see lepers in plain-sight these days, leading to think leprosy does not exist today or is eradicated similar to smallpox. However, it still occurs in more than 100 countries worldwide. According to leprosy.org:
- · More than 3 million people have disabilities as a result of leprosy
- · 75 children a day are diagnosed
- · India, Brazil and Indonesia have the most new cases of leprosy
- · 168 new cases were diagnosed in the U.S. in 2012
- · Leprosy is curable with treatment.
In a day and age when nobody would want to be near a leper, Jesus, touched the leper and healed him [Matthew 8:3; Mark 1:42; Luke 5:12-13] . Here Jesus taught us that it is our responsibility to take care of the downtrodden, the outcasts and the vulnerable. Each Sunday of the great lent reminds us of the ardent faith of the men and women healed by Jesus.
|Jesus Healing the Leper|
Indian Orthodox Church Charitable Organizations
The Orthodox Church runs institutions in India that takes care of the needy, the vulnerable, the physically and mentally challenged, and the terminally-ill. Below, we take a look at some of the institutions that operate outside of the state of Kerala, India.
St. Gregorios Balagram, located at Yacharam in Telengana (formerly Andhra Pradesh), India (31 miles from Hyderabad), takes care of healthy male children of people afflicted with leprosy. It was founded on the Lepers’ Sunday in 1985 by L.L. H.G Geevarghese Mar Osthathios. Balagram now also runs a home for the aged (Pratyasha Bhavan) and an Eye Hospital.
St. George Balikagram
St. George Balikagram, located at Dehu Road in Pune, India, takes care of the female children of the people with leprosy. To learn more about the St. George Balikagram visit http://www.balikagram.org/about-us.php
St. Paul’s Balagram
St. Paul's Balagram, located at Itarsi in Madhya Pradesh, India, takes care of the children of leprosy patients unaffected by the disease and orphans. To learn more about the St. Paul’s Balagram visit http://goo.gl/u33Qoy
Kalahandi Development Projects
Very few of us have heard of Kalahandi, the impoverished and drought-hit district in Odisha (Orissa), India. Because of such severe drought, people in Kalahandi district is said to prepare for drought by beginning to eat less and less so that their bodies adjust to lack of food. Fasting is not an option, it is a way of living for these people. Many of the children die due to starvation. The Indian Orthodox Church has a series of projects for the development of Kalahandi. To learn more about Kalahandi projects of the Church, visit http://providenceusa.com/balagram/kalahand.htm
St. Gregorios Dayabhavan
St. Gregorios Dayabhavan located at Vanigere Village,Tumkur District, Karnataka State, India, provides care and support to the HIV/AIDS infected and affected, rehabilitating the HIV- kids of HIV+ parents and HIV+ kids and a runs a hospital exclusive for the HIV/AIDS & Tuberculosis patients. To learn more about Dayabhavan, visit http://www.dayabhavan.org/
What shall we do?
So, on this Sunday, when we commemorate the healing of the leper, let us remember that there are many people in our society who are struggling with maladies such as leprosy, HIV/AIDS, poverty, starvation. Let us also remember and pray for the fathers who have begun these missions and all those who have set apart their lives for taking care of the needy. Each one of us shall contact one or more of these missions and see how we can help them. For a list of the church missions, visit malankara orthodox web site. Every year, as per the Kalpana of the Catholicos [e.g., 2014 in Malayalam], we pray for these institutions on the Lepers' Sunday of great lent and collections from this Sunday (of the great lent) at each Malankara Orthodox Parishes all over the world is sent to those institution(s) as directed by HH Catholicos.