A new national leprosy museum opens this month in Japan. As Osamu Sagawa explains on page 4, an important purpose of the museum is to ensure that leprosy, and the many lessons to be drawn from Japan's experience leprosy, are not forgotten.
As such, the museum acts as a monument to all those people whose lives were turned upside down by leprosy and by the legislation adopted to deal with it. It also serves a warning to present and future generations about the need to respect human rights and treat one's fellow human beings with justice and compassion.
Above all, it asks us to ask questions, and consider what is done in the name of society, since for all too long society was content to ignore the basic rights of the people it placed behind sanatorium walls. Don't just look and listen, the museum urges, but stop and think, and ask yourself 'why?'
As a new museum opens, an old institution is on the verge of closure. The situation involving the Losheng Sanatorium in Taipei (see From the Editors #23) has entered a new phase, with the forcible eviction of the remnants of its elderly population now set for later this month.
Their impending removal has attracted increasingly high-profile demonstrations, but these may have come to late to save the hospital from being leveled and the land used for the construction of part of a mass transit system. Advocates, who would like to see the leprosarium preserved as a historic site, are angered at the disruption to lives of its residents.
The themes of dislocation and upheaval, and the violation of human rights, are dealt with at the Japan's museum, but they are also being played out right now in Taiwan.