The Purple Hope Initiative Nigeria (PHIN) has reacted to a comment by the general overseer of Living Faith Church Founder, Bishop David Oyedepo about leprosy.
In January, the cleric warned Nigerians who criticize pastors to desist or face punishments such as leprosy.
A rejoinder by PHIN, which is supported by the German Leprosy Relief Association (GLRA), condemned the “discriminatory remarks”.
The body told Oyedepo that leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, is not what should be used as a threat or curse.
Caroline Cassard of Global Partnership for Zero Leprosy, at The Task Force for Global Health, sent an open letter to Our Source.
The letter advised Oyedepo to discuss how to address the harm done to the Hansen’s disease community, both in Nigeria and globally.
It reads: “As a Nigerian organization of people who have experienced Hansen’s disease, we are dismayed to read media reports where you claim that insulting a prophet can cause leprosy. These statements are inaccurate and further stigmatize.
“More than 200,000 people are diagnosed with Hansen’s disease each year, and there are believed to be more than two million individuals affected by Hansen’s disease who are undiagnosed and untreated.
“Negative social attitudes towards people who have experienced Hansen’s disease create a serious barrier to treatment and hinder global efforts to interrupt the transmission of the disease.
“Hansen’s disease is caused by bacteria and is curable with an antibiotic regimen called multi-drug therapy. Hansen’s disease is not hereditary, and it is not a curse.
“However, people affected by this disease are still marginalized and excluded from communities around the globe. They are isolated by families and friends. They lose their jobs, marriages, property, and experience human rights violations.
“People who have experienced Hansen’s disease deserve to live dignified and respectable lives. Their diagnosis must not define them, and they must not be excluded from their communities.”
The letter denounced the misuse of leprosy as a metaphor, reminding public figures, including religious leaders, of their duty to respect millions of people affected.
It said even if Oyedepo did not intend to discriminate against those who have experienced the health condition, his words have negatively impacted “our efforts and our existence”.
PHIN urged him to join the fight against the disease as well as the total elimination of all forms of stigmatization and discrimination against the victims.