Thai Binh (Agenzia Fides) – Already the name is indicative of the radical change of paradigm: from leprosy hospital to "dermatological hospital." This is the work that has started in Thai Binh, a village 250 km north of Hanoi, where the Franciscan missionaries have given impetus to the "mission among the last," one of the priority objectives in the Year of Faith.
As St. Francis embraced the leper - episode which marked the beginning of his journey of conversion-the Minor Conventual Friars, on a mission in the emerging Asian country, have carried out a project of assistance to re-evaluate and restore dignity to more than 900 lepers, for years in a segregated ghetto, the leper colony in Van Mon. Among them about 60 children, between 2 to 14 years of age, lepers’ children and grandchildren, completely healthy but condemned to marginalization only because relatives of sick people, marked by the stigma of prejudice.
The work was inaugurated last September by the Diocesan Bishop, Mgr. Peter De Van Nguyen, in the presence of Fr. Valentino Maragno OFM Conv, director of Caritas Antoniana, and Fr. George Abram, OFM Cap, responsible for the implementation of the project. Today the dermatological hospital works full time, under the guidance of the Vietnamese Fr. Martin Mai, who coordinates a staff of nuns and lay workers.
Fr. George Abram OFM Conv explains to Fides: "The new hospital will slowly drain away the old leper colony, curing lepers with modern techniques. The building also houses the 60 healthy children, who are educated and then reinserted into the social fabric. The project of a hospital for the Franciscan Order is important for official recognition by the Vietnamese government, which grants it only if the order is engaged in a project of social nature. Our brothers and new vocations will be born around the question of a mission among the marginalized." (PA) (Agenzia Fides 22/11/2012)