Campaigning Makes A Difference – BRF’s Response to Open Letter

I know it shouldn’t. but it always takes me slightly by surprise when people respond positively to the campaigning work we do for people affected by leprosy. Our concerns about the depictions of people affected by leprosy and the language used about them are not always taken seriously and I perhaps expect it to be an uphill struggle every time.

So I was absolutely delighted to be contacted by BRF within minutes of the publication of our open letter last month. They posted on Facebook:

Dear Stuart, thank you for drawing this to our attention and for the thoughtful way in which you express your concerns. You are absolutely right that we had no intention of causing offence or depicting the condition in a way which damages your excellent work and may I offer you and all those affected my sincere apology. Next time this comes up we would be delighted to talk with you first, so that we deal with the issues appropriately and helpfully. If there is some supplementary material we could put together for the session with your advice, correcting what we have got wrong we would be happy to do so. Many thanks.

They followed this up with a phone call and we had a great discussion about leprosy, about Messy Church and about the lesson in question.

As I thought, they were horrified at themselves for making such an oversight. Their thinking had been about how to make a disfiguring condition suitably gruesome, and yet slightly comical in order to engage kids with the lesson (which was focused on gratitude and saying thank you – like the Samaritan man who returned having been healed). It simply never crossed anyone’s mind that this depiction could have any impact on anyone living today.

It’s an easy mistake to make, I know I’ve sometimes become so focused on a piece of work and what I want to get out of it, and what I mean by it that I was blinded to how it might be understood by someone else approaching it from a different perspective.

It was too late to change anything for Messy Churches in September but we agreed to keep in touch and to watch for a future opportunity to work together to give an accurate depiction of leprosy and the problems that people face because of it.

It was a huge encouragement to all of us to see the results of our advocacy in action and positive impact for people affected by leprosy in the church in the UK.

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3rd Nov 2016

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Opinions are the authors own and not necessarily those of The Leprosy Mission Scotland.