Decades ago, prior to the advent of a cure for leprosy/Hansen’s disease, men, women and children throughout the world were forcibly separated from their families, and isolated in places far removed from society. This was done for the supposed protection of society, at great cost to the lives of the individuals and their families. Once there, people could be faced with limited or no contact with family, forced sterilization, or having their children taken away at birth. In some countries individuals were encouraged to change their name. Most never returned home. Despite these injustices, individuals responded to the separation from their families by developing a new society of their own. They married, established churches, participated in politics, and developed small businesses. They formed bands and choirs, wrote poetry, and created art, all that reflected their spirit of survival and resistance. Over the years, many of the residents of these communities became notable human rights activists. They challenged prevailing laws and norms, by simply insisting on justice. Today, many countries have begun to recognize the historical significance of these sites and the people who lived there, through conducting oral history of residents; supporting the establishment of museums and memorials; and identifying and preserving historic buildings, documents, and other aspects of tangible and intangible cultural heritage. Although the state of these sites varies, from established well-preserved communities, to places where the history is long forgotten and the remains of buildings and graveyards have become overgrown, these sites share a common history, as well as contribute a distinctive history of their own, to leprosy/Hansen’s disease heritage.
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International Secretariat International Coalition of Historic Sites of Exclusion and Resistance c/o International Association for Integration, Dignity, and Economic Advancement, IDEA P.O. Box 651 36 Fall Street Seneca Falls, NY 13148 USA (315) 568-5838 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org