05/21/2007, 00.00
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Concert for people living with leprosy in Asia and Africa

by Theresa Kim Hwa-young
A benefit concert for leprosy patients in Asian and African countries was held last Saturday with performances by renowned musicians. A mass was later held at St Lazarus village for the sick.

Seoul (AsiaNews) – Fr Kim Hwa-tae last Saturday introduced the 25th Benefit Concert for leprosy patients at the Grand Hall of the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts in Seoul

Titled “Because You Are There,” the gala event was designed to raise funds for people living with leprosy in Korea, but also in China, Vietnam, Cambodia, India, Kenya and Sudan.

Renowned musicians performed like Anna Maria Kaufman, who starred as Christine in the “Phantom of the Opera,” and baritone Kim Dong-gyu. Ms Kaufman also visited the St Lazarus Village to attend mass with patients and sing special songs for them.

The St Lazarus Village was established in 1950 by Bishop George Carroll, from the Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America also known as the missionaries of Maryknoll, and is home to the first Korean Catholic leprosy care center.

Fr Kim Hwa-tae became its director in 1998.

When he first visited the center, he saw the date when the village was built on the bust statue of the founder. It was June 2, 1950, which is his birthday. “I felt destined to follow God's order, which led me here to help them,” he recalled.

At the beginning things were not easy. “Then I saw an old lady praying, placing the rosary on her fragile wrist, and I asked what her prayer was about,” Father Kim said. “She said it was a prayer thanking people who have helped the leprosy patients whole-heartedly. And that made me want to serve them from the bottom of my heart.”

Since then he has created a friendly environment for the patients, who enjoy playing samulnori, a traditional Korean form of percussion music, with help from a group of volunteers, and producing clay art work.

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