ASIA NEWS REPORT: by Nirmala Carvalho
Sr. Jean: "A heavy heart, it is a loss for me but especially for the thousands of people affected by leprosy." Fr. George Kannanthanam, director of the association that the religious worked for: "Professionalism, legendary compassion and tenderness." The government denied renewal of her visa, without providing any explanation. She has a month before she must return to England.
Mumbai (AsiaNews) - Sister Jacqueline Jean McEwan, the "Mother Teresa" of Bangalore, will have to leave the lepers of India for whom she has cared for 29 years within a month. The central government has not renewed the English missionary’s visa, without giving any explanation. "I'm leaving with a heavy heart - the religious tells - it's not just my loss, but a loss for all the thousands of people affected by leprosy." Sr Jean, 63, is a missionary who has worked at the Montfort Missionaries Sumanahalli Society, run by Fr. George Kannanthanam. "I feel that the heart has been ripped out of Sumanahalli - the priest says - without her, I doubt that the organization will be the same again." At first, Sr. Jean was supposed to leave Bangalore today, but was granted a one-month extension.
"I'm really sad and I do not know what to do - Fr George Kannanthanam tells AsiaNews - Sister Jean was the real force for lepers in the slums of Seshadripuram, Indirapuram and elsewhere. " The priest speaks of the " legendary professionalism, tenderness, compassion and concern with which she assisted lepers in the slums." Moreover, Sr. Jean was involved in educational programs for patients and their children: "Through her, many of them, generally ostracized by their families and society, have received training and hope for the future." The sister had also learned Kannada (the local dialect), in order to better communicate with her patients.
"Globally, 70% of leprosy cases are in India - said Fr George - and even if, as in the rest of the world, the number of patients has decreased in this country there are still 2.5 million patients. There are 4 thousand cases in Karnataka and Bangalore alone last year 400 new patients were registered. " For these reasons, the failure to renew the Sr. Jean’s visa "is a loss for the most marginalized, those people who she loved so much and has always treated with dignity."
The Society Sumanahalli began its relief and rehabilitation with the lepers project in 1977. In 33 years, it has treated more than 5 thousand leprosy patients. With the decrease of cases, the organization has also started to deal with people affected by HIV (30), disabled (30), orphans (45), street children (50) and young offenders (40).