On Wednesday, October 11th, Mr. Zachary N. Muñoz, Advisor, delivered a statement to the Third Committee concerning the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by Hansen’s Disease.
In his statement, Mr. Muñoz emphasized the importance of justice, compassion, and human rights in combating the persistent stigma surrounding this ancient affliction.
Leprosy, an age-old disease that has inflicted both physical and emotional scars on individuals and their communities, has long been accompanied by discrimination and marginalization of its sufferers.
Mr. Muñoz asserted that “persons affected by leprosy are not defined by their illness. They are mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters who deserve the same rights and opportunities as any other member of society.”
St. Fr. Damien of Molokai, who was a missionary priest from Belgium to the Hawaiian Kingdom of Molokai from 1873 until his death in 1889, worked tirelessly to improve the living conditions, provide medical care, and build proper housing for the residents of the leper colony. He dressed ulcers, built hospitals, homes, and churches, and organized various activities to bring comfort and a sense of community to the colony. He became a source of hope and solace for those who were previously abandoned and shunned.
In addition to his practical efforts, Father Damien offered spiritual guidance, celebrated Mass, administered sacraments, and conducted prayer services. He brought a sense of dignity and humanity to the lives of those affected by leprosy, often holding their hands and offering them love and compassion.
Sadly, Father Damien eventually contracted leprosy himself, succumbing to the disease in 1889. His selfless dedication to the marginalized and his example of sacrificial love made a lasting impact, and he was canonized as a saint by the Catholic Church in 2009.
His legacy lives on, inspiring countless individuals to serve and care for the sick and suffering with compassion and love, including the various works of the Order of Malta concerning Hansen’s Disease.
Commending the longstanding efforts of the Order of Malta in France and the Order of Malta International Campaign against Leprosy (Ciomal Foundation), his statement highlighted their unwavering commitment to addressing leprosy’s challenges. The initiatives include fundraising for diagnosis, treatment, reintegration of cured patients, and medical personnel training.
Notably, the Order of Malta France recently inaugurated a specialized department for plantar ulcers in Cambodia, focusing on treating leprosy patients with foot deformities. The department, equipped with modern facilities, has already treated a significant number of patients.
The Order of Malta’s extensive efforts were showcased, including its scientific research program, MALTALEP, dedicated to studying the genetic mechanisms of leprosy and fostering new therapies. The program has gained recognition from the World Health Organization and significantly contributed to funding research for leprosy eradication.
In conclusion, the global community emphasized that the elimination of discrimination against individuals affected by leprosy and their families is a pressing human rights issue. The commitment to justice, compassion, and equality calls for concerted efforts to eradicate the deeply entrenched stigma. The speech concluded by urging everyone to unite in creating a world where every individual, regardless of their health condition, is treated with dignity and respect, fostering a more inclusive and just society for all.