Albinism: a ‘curse’ turned blessing

By August 22, 2016

Uganda (MNN) — Africa’s problems are usually summed in one word — poverty. But there’s so much more happening in the 54 countries making up the continent.

More than Poverty

(Photo Courtesy Every Child Ministries via Facebook)

(Photo courtesy of Every Child Ministries via Facebook)

Take Uganda for example. It’s a country marked by the extreme poverty ravishing its people. But, it’s also dealing with the negative effects of superstition towards albinos.

Albinism by definition is a genetic disorder, hereditarily passed on, causing the skin, hair, and even eyes to appear colorless.

People with albinism usually suffer from poor eye sight caused by the irises’ inability to block light. They’re visually and physically sensitive to light, have increased chances of skin cancer, and much more.

Albinism, A Misunderstood ‘Curse’

In Uganda, and many other African countries, albinism is viewed as a curse. Every Child Ministries‘ International Executive Director Mark Luckey says, “To understand the albino project we have, you have to understand albinism, what albinism is. It’s prevalent in many, many families in many, many communities in Africa. And it is definitely something that carries a stigma with it, a very severe stigma. In fact, many albino children, and adults, face pretty difficult situations.”

According to Luckey, individuals with albinism are usually shunned. They’re shut away and cut off from society. Families are often ashamed of them. Albinos are criticized, discriminated against, teased, and in some cases – killed.

Because of superstitions, some people believe witch doctors can make a potion using an albino child’s body parts to bring luck. This is particularly common in Tanzania, where children will be trafficked from other countries to be slaughtered. A complete set of body parts can be sold for up to $75,000 USD. Still, these are in extreme cases, all brought on by a severe misunderstanding.

“At the same time, we realize that a big part of the problem with albinism was not just the disease itself, or the condition itself, but the way people perceived it,” Luckey explains. “And so we spent time developing a curriculum we can share, or that we use in teaching community leaders, church leaders, [and] school leaders what albinism is.”

A Helping Hand

ECM’s albino program is mainly in Uganda, focusing in areas with higher rates of albinism. So far, ECM’s work is helping communities realize albinism isn’t a curse or a family string of bad luck, but a medical condition.

“Albinism looks very different. So if you’re in an African context, now you have this child who not only is white in skin color, but the skin is not in very good condition. It’s very affect[ed] by the sun…it can produce really horrible sores all over the skin.”

(Photo Courtesy Every Child Ministries via Facebook)

(Photo Courtesy Every Child Ministries via Facebook)

So why the discrimination? Luckey explains, “It’s culturally true anywhere you go, when a person is different from the norm, they are seen as less than human, or depending on the severity of the condition, they’re certainly discriminated against, put down.”

The bad stigma towards albinos goes as far as breaking up families. If there’s a child born with albinism, the majority of fathers leave. If there’s a second child born with this hereditary disorder, it’s viewed as a curse on the family. Full abandonment by the father is almost always the result.

Love’s Power

So when strangers come in and freely love those with albinism, educate them and others, and work to make them feel accepted and understood — people want to know why.

The answer? Christ.

“We talk to a lot of families who we have helped. Of course they’re extremely grateful, but it changes the perception in the community. They will say things like, ‘We used to think that albinism was a curse. If you had that, you would never be blessed, you would never get anything. Now we see that these kids are being helped, and we realize that God loves them,’” Luckey explains.

(Photo Courtesy Every Child Ministries via Facebook)

(Photo courtesy of Every Child Ministries via Facebook)

Luckey says by sharing Christ’s love and the Gospel in both words and acts, communities are seeing the love of Christ.

Kids, particularly those with albinism, are coming to know Christ and so are the people in their lives. It’s changing lives not only in the here and now, but also for eternity.

By God’s grace, this love and education is helping change communities and shift perspectives to view albinos not as curses, but as people who can be blessed. Once word of ECM albino programs gets out in the communities, albinos and their families come out from hiding. As a result, ECM is trying to expand its albino project to meet the peoples’ needs.

Will You Help?

Giving: ECM sponsors children with albinism to make sure they’re taken care of, educated, and that their needs are met. But to do this, it takes donors willing to give a little financially and watch God do a lot. To donate or sponsor a child, click here!

Praying: Please pray for ECM’s albino program to receive support, grow, and continue to reach albinos and their families with education, support, and Christ’s redemptive love.

Also, pray for those with albinism’s protection and for ECM’s time of change, for wisdom moving forward, and for a clear vision to how God desires to use the ministry.

To give or sponsor a child, click here!

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