Deformed Bodies Still Yearn For Life

Our Kon Thup parish, situated in the mountainous region of Gia Lai province, stands as a sanctuary amidst a leprosy village. This parish predominantly comprises ethnic minorities who face the arduous challenges of life in this remote locale. The people here, burdened by difficult circumstances, grapple with a low level of education. Above all, they bear the weight of a significant inferiority complex, a psychological struggle that often compels them to maintain a distance from others due to their condition as lepers. People hesitate and dare not approach, creating an unwarranted distance born out of apprehension.

Their lives are always entangled with pains. Their bodies suffer from the ravages of leprosy, caused by the ‘Mycobacterium Leprae’ bacterium. They are so poor that they do not have food or medicine to treat them, so they need kind, generous and sharing hearts to help them overcome difficulties in daily life. Due to the disease, they are compelled to accept separation and lead a life of solitude. After being cured, they aspire to reintegrate into the community, but they still grapple with an inferiority complex about themselves. Therefore, our church is the only place they could go to. There is an invisible bond at church that draws them closer together, providing a heightened sense of safety and love.

The day I arrived at Kon Thup parish, I was warmly welcomed by everyone, including lepers who lacked limbs. Despite their physical challenges, their faces radiated strong vitality, their hearts yearning for love, and smiles perpetually graced their lips. These images became deeply ingrained in my mind and heart. I always aspire to contribute something meaningful for them, offering a small warmth of humanity. However, I recognize that I cannot achieve this alone, so I am in need of helping hands. I would like to express my gratitude to the ‘Friends of Lepers in Vietnam’ for their support in alleviating the suffering in Kon Thup parish during the past period.

These individuals are still very much alive, yet in the eyes of many, they seem to have faded into nonexistence. Society perceives them as burdens, and they grapple with the weight of this stigma. Leprosy has become an unwanted companion in their lives, much like how, during the Covid pandemic, we all wished to avoid infection, but the virus spared no one. It is a fate that befalls the unfortunate, a reminder of the precarious nature of life. We, who have been more fortunate, must acknowledge their struggle and extend our compassion in the face of these shared vulnerabilities.

None of us can fully live their lives or tread the exact path they walk, but we can certainly offer them companionship with warm hearts. A compassionate heart connects with another. Reflecting on the words of Saint Teresa of Calcutta, who devoted herself to caring for the poor and homeless in India, “Their life is not as a human life, so when they die, we try to help them to die as a human being.” These profound words compel us to ponder the enormity of her compassion—a small person with a colossal heart.

They consistently sing a song of gratitude, extending their thanks to the many individuals who continue to remember them. They express appreciation for the opportunities granted to connect with compassionate hearts and for the healing of their wounds. Their gratitude is profound for those who love them generously, without any expectation of repayment, and for those who contribute warm hearts to alleviate the challenges in their unfortunate lives. A heartfelt acknowledgment is reserved for the “Friends of Lepers in Vietnam” for their unwavering support and benevolence.

Kon Thup, Kontum Diocese July 29, 2022

Fr. Peter Nguyen Dinh Phung,SVD