Kalian was my friend.

When I learned of his death, I was struck by the loss. Even though we did not speak the same language, Kalian taught me so much about hope, dignity, grace and unconditional forgiveness.

Kalian had leprosy. This diagnosis sentenced him to a lifetime of poverty, stigma and personal loss. It is one of the oldest and most cruel afflictions known to humankind.

Every day, The Leprosy Mission celebrates the remarkable inroads made since a young Irishman followed his passion to serve his Saviour. Wellesley Bailey prayed for a role in serving the poorest of the poor and when he encountered a group of people in a secluded village who had been cast out of their homes, he knew he had found his place.

The Mission formally began its work in 1874. The focus has never changed: to empower children, women and men affected by leprosy. Sadly, hundreds of times every day, our medical teams have the dreadful task of telling someone they have leprosy. That diagnosis changes their life – forever.

Yet each day has special moments, moments of light and laughter. Because, in spite of the cruel effects of leprosy, there is hope. Leprosy CAN be cured.

But until we can say leprosy is DEFEATED, we will continue to reach out with transforming compassion at that place where hope and dignity meet – in the lives of those affected by leprosy.

Ken

Ken Gibson is the CEO of Mission to End Leprosy in Ireland