60th World Leprosy Day and the 110th Anniversary of the Birth of Raoul Follereaustamp by Vatican

November 29th, 2013

Sixty years ago, in 1954, the first World Leprosy Day was celebrated. The idea for it came from Raoul Follereau, a French journalist and writer who worked tirelessly in favor of people with leprosy as an "ambassador of the poor". Last August marked the 110th anniversary of his birth (17 August 1903). The new postage stamp by Vatican recalls both anniversaries, featuring his efforts, together with his inseparable wife, Madeleine, and his lifelong dedication to eliminating leprosy from the face of the earth. Follereau reawakened international public opinion on the inhumane conditions of the millions of people suffering from Hansen's disease, who were still exiled to leper colonies despite the fact effective, low-cost cures were available for the disease. He was truly a "vagabond for charity", continually visiting the leper colonies to which they were confined, embracing those with the disease, also to show that it was not as contagious as people thought and could be defeated. He came up with remarkable initiatives, including one calling on the USA and USSR superpowers to give up two atomic bombers to cover the cost of definitively eliminating the disease. He created a slogan against "the worst leprosy of all" -selfishness- since "Civilization is where people love one another.

Nobody has the right to be happy alone". Thanks to Follereau's efforts, the last century saw some of the greatest successes in the fight against the disease, which was considered worse than the plague. Raoul Follereau died in 1977, but his heritage lives on in the numerous Foundations inspired by him. The battle continues today since there are still 200,000 new cases of leprosy each year. As Follereau said: "The treasure I leave you is the good that I have not done, that I would have liked to do, and which you will do after me".

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