THINK LEPROSY NOW – Global Appeal 2016Appeal to eliminate prejudice and discrimination made in landmark year
Launch ceremony held in Tokyo with JCI
The Nippon Foundation held a ceremony to deliver the Global Appeal 2016, a global call to eliminate prejudice and discrimination against people affected by leprosy, at the Sasakawa Peace Foundation Building in Tokyo on January 26. Today, leprosy is completely curable, but prejudice and discrimination against people affected by leprosy remain deeply rooted. This year's Global Appeal was delivered together with Junior Chamber International (JCI), an NGO of persons aged 18 to 40 operating in 130 countries around the world. This year also marks the 20th anniversary of Japan's repeal of the Leprosy Prevention Law, which for many years forced leprosy patients into isolation. Another important milestone this year is the fact that Brazil – the only remaining country that has yet to meet the WHO's definition of eliminating leprosy as a public health problem (i.e. below one case per 10,000 population) – is nearing the achievement of this goal.
The Nippon Foundation has been working for more than 40 years to eliminate both the disease of leprosy and discrimination against people affected by leprosy in Japan and around the world. The Nippon Foundation Chairman Yohei Sasakawa, who also serves as WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination and the Japanese Government Goodwill Ambassador for the Human Rights of Persons Affected by Leprosy, has issued a Global Appeal every year since 2006 to coincide with World Leprosy Day, together with world leaders in fields including medicine, religion, and law. The appeal highlights the fact that leprosy is curable, free treatment is available, and there is no place for social discrimination. This year's is the 11th Global Appeal, and the second time the appeal has been delivered from Tokyo.
To encourage people to think about leprosy, The Nippon Foundation launched the THINK LEPROSY NOW campaign in 2014. This public awareness campaign carries out educational activities to promote a correct understanding of leprosy. This year, World Leprosy Day is being observed on January 31, and a variety of events will be held around that date, with the Global Appeal launch ceremony as the centerpiece.
This year's launch ceremony was attended by approximately 250 persons, including people affected by leprosy and their families, medical professionals, and human rights leaders from around the world. In addition to addressing both the medical and social aspects of the disease, the gathering also dealt with setting an agenda for “the future of leprosy.”
The morning began with a charity performance of the song Utagoe no Hibiki (Echoes of Singing Voices) by soprano Yumiko Samejima. The lyrics of the song were written by His Majesty the Emperor and the music was written by Her Majesty the Empress, after visiting the National Sanatorium Okinawa Airakuen in 1975. This was followed by a screening of the video Leprosy in Our Time, which conveys the realities of life for people affected by leprosy.
The guests were then welcomed in opening remarks by the event's organizers: Mr. Sasakawa, 2016 JCI President Paschal Dike, and 2015 JCI Japan President Kosuke Shibata.
Mr. Sasakawa discussed the background behind the Global Appeal and some of the main messages that have been conveyed together with various specialists over the years, noting:
“This year, I wanted to continue and to send a message to the younger people of the world. This year, we have the partnership of the Junior Chamber International, so that we will be able to send this important message to the young people of the world. JCI members are future business leaders of the world. They are actively involved in social and economic development, and international cooperation. I would like to once again express my deepest gratitude to the members of JCI, who have so willingly agreed to collaborate with us in our efforts.
“It is my hope that more and more people will take this opportunity to think about leprosy, and to be involved in open communication amongst each other. Let us come to grips with this huge issue of discrimination that leprosy brings to us. Let us join our hands to find a solution to this issue of leprosy and discrimination.”
JCI President Dike added:
“People affected by leprosy must be treated with the same human dignity as every other person on earth, and each one of us can play a role in ensuring that this disease is no longer a lifelong curse upon a family's outlook or life. I am proud to be here today to represent JCI members in nearly 5,000 communities around the world, and our commitment to ending discrimination against people affected by leprosy. As we take this step together today, we believe that there is more that can be done together, in overcoming the challenges that the world face, whether it is working together to promote peace in the world, or empowering young people with resources to play a more active role in community development.”
Speaking on behalf of JCI Japan, Mr. Shibata commented:
“This year in Japan, as part of the cooperation, [JCI] is calling on the member chambers where leprosariums exist, so that these members can actively be involved in a campaign to end stigma and discrimination against this disease.”
These remarks were followed by greetings from representatives of organizations that have participated in past Global Appeals: the International Bar Association, the World Medical Association, the International Council of Nurses, the United Nations Human Rights Council Advisory Committee, the Forum of Parliamentarians to Free India of Leprosy, and the Coalition of Leprosy Advocates of the Philippines.
Next, Ms. Roshni, a Sasakawa India Leprosy Foundation scholarship recipient, and Rambrai Sah, Trustee of the Association of People Affected by Leprosy, joined Mr. Dike on stage for the reading of this year's Global Appeal.
After the reading, Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe and First Lady Akie Abe, and Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare Yasuhisa Shiozaki joined the proceedings. Mr. Abe and Mr. Shiozaki each offered brief remarks in support of the Global Appeal, which Mr. and Mrs. Abe attended for the second year in a row. Mr. Abe noted that in the past, Japan had inappropriate policies that forced people affected by leprosy into isolation, severely infringing on their human rights and fostering social prejudice and discrimination. He expressed his hope that today's Global Appeal will provide an opportunity for people around the world to gain a proper understanding of leprosy, and think and take action to eliminate prejudice and discrimination toward the disease.
In the afternoon, an international symposium titled “Discrimination and How to Prevent It: Lessons from Leprosy” was held. The symposium began with a brief overview of leprosy today, given by Dr. Erwin Cooreman of the WHO Global Leprosy Program, followed by two panel discussions, “Health and Human Rights – Combating Discrimination” and “Views of Younger Generations – What We Can Learn from Leprosy.” A talk event titled “Leprosy, Discrimination and Religion – Is a New Civilization Possible?" featured nonfiction writer Fumihiko Takayama and Tetsuo Yamaori, Director General of the International Research Center for Japanese Studies, and was facilitated by the actress and novelist Yuri Nakae. The event concluded with closing remarks by Professor Kenzo Kiikuni, President of the Sasakawa Memorial Health Foundation.
- Global Appeal 2016 news release (including information on side events)
- Global Appeal 2016 program and speakers
- Video of Global Appeal 2016 (YouTube)
The Nippon Foundation