Monday, December 11, 2017

Why are Hansen's Disease Patients Different?

In the Catholic Times, an article on Hansen's disease has the headline: Approaching those with Hansen's disease is still difficult. The journalist writes about the 29 cured with a history of Hansen's disease now living in a village as a family.They left the home for  the first time since birth for a three day trip to Jeju-do.

Before they left the priest in charge made reservations at a hotel. However, when they arrived they were told there was a mistake made and a group of young people on their school excursion trip were accepted and are sorry for the inconvenience.
They had to go to a pension they knew would accept them.

The group was elated with the joy of the trip to Jeju-do but the prejudice and discrimination were present in many different ways. At a restaurant when they ordered a pot stew dish the waiter wanted to know if the priest accompanying the group wanted a separate pot. He politely refused. Prejudice gives birth to discrimination and discrimination to prejudice and this has been the case for thousands of years.

Discrimination has been the attitude of world and the church for centuries. The church is partialy responsible for making the sufferers from this disease 'outsiders'.

 Leper was used but now after the Norwegian doctor, Gerhard Henrik Armauer Hansen (1841-1912) discovered the bacterium that causes the disease the name was changed.  

In the Old Testament, the disease was considered a penalty from heaven, a curse from God. This is seen often in the Old Testament. Leprosy is seen also in the New Testament but treated differently. Jesus touches lepers, breaking a tradition that was present for centuries. Jesus went to the homes of lepers but today after 2000 years, the priest asks: are we still living in the Old Testament times or New Testament times?

According to statistic, we have 10,402 Hansen's patients. Only 87 are positive and are being treated the other 99% have been cured. Many are living in homes for those with a history of Hansen's disease but 6,213  are living in their own homes. The average age is about 74 and in the near future, the disease  will disappear into history.

Within a year, less than 10 are diagnosed with the bacterium.The common opinion of the medical practitioners who work in the field, those taking medicine are cured and the danger of contagion is slight.

We have entered the stage where the disappearance of the disease is envisioned but an important step has still to be taken. We have persons cured of the disease who live separately from others and this is true within the church. Even if our intellects tell us and we want to come closer to them, we see believers whose body recoils when in their presence.