AIFO was inspired by the French journalist and philosopher Raoul Follereau. There are many Raoul Follereau organisations inspired by him in Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America.
A Brief Biography of Raoul Follereau
He was born in Nevers (France) in 1903. Raoul Follereau was just 17 years old when he published his first volume: The book of love. Still very young, he started his successful career of writer & poet.
At the age of 22, he married Madeleine Boudou. In 1936, the director of an Argentine newspaper asked him to go to West Africa to tread Father de Foucauld’s steps, whose 20th anniversary of death was about to be celebrated. It was during one of those travels that Follereau first met the leprosy-affected persons. In the following ten years, he traveled the world many times, holding conferences to raise awareness and to collect funds, which allowed him to support the building of a centre for the leprosy affected persons in Adzope in Ivory Coast.
But he still felt that some thing more should be done. He wanted the leprosy-affected persons to be free from the segregation and the stigma of the disease. So he went to visit them in leprosariums, he embraced them, he became friends with them, to promote the idea that leprosy affected persons are human beings like others.
In addition to the support to the leprosy patients and the fight against the stigma, he also carried out a strong campaign to inform people about poverty, injustice and indifference, which were for him the underlying causes of the disease. His appeals for peace and for a more equal distribution of the planet resources, became very famous.
Raoul Follereau was an able communicator and he had a great ability in raising enthusiasm and in stimulating commitment from people. These gifts, together with a strong desire to work for the most under-privileged, gave a great social impact to his initiatives. Some of the better-known initiative launched by him include the following:
- 1944 – A letter to the president Franklin D. Roosevelt to ask for the equivalent of one day of war for works of peace.
- 1946 – He established the Order of Charity which, later on became the Raoul Follereau Foundations.
- 1947 – On Good Friday, he proclaimed the general strike against egoism.
- 1949 – He published “Atom bomb or Charity” distributed in 15 languages in millions of copies. It became the manifesto of a campaign called “To love each other or To disappear”.
- 1954 – He established the World Leprosy Day, which is still celebrated in most countries in the world on the last Sunday of January, each year.
- 1954 – A letter to the presidents of Russia and United States to ask them to donate the cost of one bomber, for the treatment of the leprosy patients.
- 1962 – Letters to all the heads of state of the world, proposing that if, in 1962 each nation could give one hundred francs out of each million francs used for their defense budget for the treatment of the leprosy patients, all the leprosy patients in the world could be cured.
- 1966 – On his initiative ELEP, the European federation of the associations working against leprosy, was founded. A few years later, this federation became international and is now called ILEP.
- 1970 – His book “The book of love” was distributed in more than 10 millions copies, in 35 languages.
- 1975 – He submitted the text of the “Universal Declaration of the Rights of the Leprosy Affected Persons” to the United Nations.
Raoul Follereau died in Paris (France) on December 6th 1977. He was a great social transformer. Many of his statements and campaigns are still so true for the events of present times. Millions of persons are still working, inspired by his words and his works. There are many Raoul Follereau associations in the world inspired by his words and working for leprosy affected persons and other under-privileged and marginalised groups. For example, there are other Raoul Follereau associations in France, Benin, Madagascar, Mali, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Chad, Portugal and Guinea-Bissau.
The image below is from his visit to the Aifo office in Bologna (Italy) in 1976.
His most famous books are:
- If Christ tomorrow
- Traffic lights civilization
- Men like the others
- The only truth is to love each other
- I will sing after my death
- The book of love