Raoul Follereau - A Brief BiographyAbout Raoul Follereau (1903-77) who inspired the birth of AIFO

Raoul Follereau 1963

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 career of writer & poet, which was to be very successful.

At the age of 22, he married Madeleine Boudou, the strong and sweet partner of all his life.

In 1936, the director of an Argentine newspaper asked him to go to Sahara region to tread Father de Foucauld’s steps, whose 20th anniversary of death was about to be celebrated. It was during one of these travels that Follereau met the leprosy-affected persons for the first time. In the following ten years he traveled the world many times, holding 1200 conferences which allowed him to support the building of Adzopé in Ivory Coast, the town of the leprosy affected persons.

But he still felt that some thing more should be done. He wanted them to be free from the segregation imprisoning them, and from the stigma of the disease. So he went to visit them, he embraced them, he became friends with them, to promote the idea that leprosy affected persons are human beings, as for centuries they had been considered just deformed beings to be isolated, by the whole world.

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, 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 even, the simplest persons. 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 – 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’s day 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 the campaign “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 last Sunday of January, each year.
  • 1954 – 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 was founded, the European federation of the associations working against leprosy; later on, this federation became international and is now called ILEP.
  • 1970 – Published “The book of love” which 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 United Nations.

He died in Paris (France) on December 6th 1977.

Raoul Follereau was a great social transformer; many of his statements 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 persons. For example, there are other Raoul Follereau associations in France, Benin, Madagascar, Mali, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Chad, Portugal, Guinea-Bissau, etc.

His most famous books are:

  • If Christ tomorrow…
  • Traffic lights civilization
  • Men like the others
  • The only truth is to love each other
  • I’ll sing after my death
  • The book of love

Follereau in AIFO office in Bologna, 1976

Raoul Follereau with his wife Medeleine in AIFO office in Bologna, 1976

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