- In the context of the medical missions, Protestants developed specialized ministries to alleviate the physical and social suffering of leprosy (now known as Hansen's disease). in the 19th century, many of the thousands of Western missionaries were confronted with lepers (sufferers of leprosy) for the first time in their lives. At the time, it was incurable, highly contagious, and disfiguring - its victims appeared to be rotting away. Segregation was the more humane treatment in most coun-tries - the alternative being periodic massacres.Missionaries soon recognized that leprosy required a specialized ministry. Roman Catholics had established centers that welcomed those suffering with the disease, where they could live in relative safety among people who loved and cared for them. The first Protestant effort was the Mission to Lepers in India, an agency established in Dublin, Ireland, in 1874 by Wellesley Bailey. It operated as an interdenominational agency. Bailey's organization, now known as The Lepers Mission, inspired other agencies to form in different countries, such as the American Leprosy Missions founded in 1906.In the 1870s, Armauer Hansen discovered the microbe that causes the affliction, and treatments were eventually developed. In 1966, the International Federation of Leprosy Associations was formed by religious and secular agencies under the auspices of the United Nations to work toward a world without leprosy. In the 1980s, a set of drugs was discovered that together can stop the progress of the disease. Since that time, the Leprosy Mission and other Christian agencies have focused on raising funds to get the medicine to those with the disease. Today, 70 percent of the 1 million active leprosy cases in the world are located in India, Myanmar, and Nepal. The rest are spread among some 90 other countries.Further reading:■ William H. P. Anderson, "Christian Missions to Lepers," International Review of Mission 21 (1932): 264-71■ Perry Burgess, Born of Those Years, An Autobiography (New York: Holt, 1951)■ Alfred Donald Miller, An Inn Called Welcome. The Story of the Mission to Lepers 1874-1917 (London: Mission to Lepers, 1965).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.