Like Diwali, at Christmas, Christ is the light for the lepers in Mumbai (photos)

The Vimala Dermatological Centre in the Versova is home to 60 patients. A student dorm of some 83 students is associated with the centre. The nuns help leprosy patients "forgotten by everyone”.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – For leprosy patients in Mumbai, Christmas "is like the Hindu festival of Diwali. On that occasion, the victory of light over darkness is celebrated. For us Christ is the light of the world, he comes to enlighten the heart of every man," said Sister Bertilla Capra, of the Missionaries of the Immaculate Conception (female congregation associated with the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions), who spoke to AsiaNews.

The nun heads the Vimala Dermatological Centre, one of the most important hospitals for the treatment of leprosy located in Versova, a Mumbai neighbourhood,

On Saturday, she along with 60 patients and 83 girls from the student dorm associated with the facility, celebrated the birth of Christ.

Founded in 1976, the Centre is a place of reference for patients suffering from Hansen's disease in Maharashtra’s main city.

In over 40 years it has treated thousands of people, offering various treatments, plastic surgery and rehabilitation as well as physiotherapy services.

At present, nine nuns work at the facility together with scores of experts from around the Indian state.

"The less serious patients, those at the first stage of the disease, are treated at home,” the nun explained. “The most serious cases, which already show sores and infections in the limbs, are hospitalised since they require specific medical treatment and surgery."

The Christmas celebration took place in a hospital hall where the girls from the dorm put on a play about the birth of Christ.

"Everyone was involved,” Sr Bertilla said. “The girls performed the show, and the patients and the nuns joined in. It was an unassuming ceremony, without ostentation, to show the values ‚Äč‚Äčthat Jesus taught us.”

"After the show, the characters from the Nativity Scene together with the sick went to the hospital centre, where Santa was waiting for them with presents. Great gifts were given to the sick and to the girls. This was followed by singing, refreshments and games."

Although the facility is run by nuns, most patients are Muslims or Hindus. "We are here for them,” said Sr Bertilla. “Our presence is a testimony: to spread Jesus’s message of love and peace. We offer this service to help these people."

As for the wider community, "our work is appreciated,” said the nun “because we take care of those who are forgotten. Leprosy patients are still shunned. They need assistance but nobody cares."