Indian Disability Ecumenical Accompaniment – IDEA
Commission on Justice, Peace and Creation- National Council of Churches in India
A Regional Consultation on “Churches’ Ministerial Response to Disability”
At CNI Grace Cathedral, Raipur, Chhattisgarh. On the 12th Oct 2015
The Engage Disability Regional Hub meeting was held at the CNI Grace Cathedral in Raipur on the 12th Oct 2015. The Chhattisgarh Christian Council organized this meeting with NCCI – IDEA and Christian Service Agency. There were over 100 participants from several churches and institutions in Chhattisgarh State including several PWDs with their families from different backgrounds.
This meeting focused on the theme: Towards Inclusive Community, and aimed to create awareness on disability issues and sensitize the Church to become inclusive, and to defend and affirm the right and dignity of Persons with Disabilities, and to create disabled-friendly environments in the church and society at large.
Rev. Dr. Roger Gaikwad, the General Secretary of NCCI, delivered the keynote address on ‘Inclusive Church’. He inspired the participants with scriptural references and biblical narratives to explain and motivate to become inclusive communities. He also challenged that, if Church is not Church ‘OF’ All and Church ‘FOR’ All, we need to re-look at our call and commitment. Rev. Dr. Roger also provoked the participants by raising questions about the pre-natal screening and aborting the child with disability, and in some cases where the children with disabilities are killed in merciless ways. He shared his life experience that, he himself was a PWD with the bilateral clubfeet which needed long medical intervention for rectification. He also stressed upon the theology of image of God where God created all in God’s image including PWDs. So, it is our responsibility to respect and to recognize the images of God in our lives, mission and ministries. He also urged the participants to walk together …Towards the Inclusive society. Thus creating “Church of All and Church for All” and accompany the PWDs spiritually and socially.
Rev. Christopher Rajkumar, the Executive Secretary, Commission on Justice Peace and Creation and Director of IDEA shared that the missiological concept of ‘walking together with PWD’ is a mission agenda for the Churches. He also stressed that, let Churches and the Christian Institutions not focus mainly on establishing ‘exclusive’ homes and shelters for the PWDs, rather involve in a mission where every house of the PWDs are homes and abodes of Joy and Peace. He also emphasized that, the Gospel of Christ that affirms right, dignity and life to be proclaimed though our actions especially towards establishing the ‘inclusive reign of God’.
Rev. Atul Arthur, Secretary, Chhattisgarh Christian Council spoke on Disability and the Church today. He stressed on the traditional theology of curse and punishment of God and informed the participants that disability is medical and scientific issues not a theological or spiritual issue. “In the sight of God all are equal and let us not pass judgment on the PWDs”, he said. He challenged the ‘spiritual arrogance’ of so-called able-bodies persons and said that PWDs do not need our sympathy but an accompaniment. He also assured that, he would work on guidelines to build the disable-friendly buildings and structures.
Mr. Anup Masih, a PWD who works at the UCO Bank shared his challenging life story. He informed the participants about the challenges and struggles to cope with life in the society and ill treatment and discrimination he faced in the Church and Society. He however had developed the skill to ignore the antagonizing, stigmatizing and discriminating attitude of the society. He also informed that because of his social and economic status today he is accepted by the Church and Society, but till then he was not treated and considered as a human. He also expressed his gratitude to his parents and siblings for their constant support, understanding and encouragement. He emphasized that Churches should conscientize members and pastors to deal with the PWDs and their families.
Mr. Kuldeep, polio-affected crawling PWD with his family and a nine months old child participated in this meeting. He said that he wins his bread by scrounging at the Kali Temple and his wife assisted him with the child. Actually he tried his best to avail the Government support scheme, unfortunately he could not. He pleaded that he wanted to get government to lead a dignified life, and so he asked, “Is there anyone who could help me?” This question takes us to the visually impaired person’s experience at the Siloam Pool in Jesus’ time. Who could lend a hand to make him to be accepted is a challenge before the Church.
Mr. Aadesh Masih was another PWD who was crippled due to an accident three years ago and was disappointed that he was left alone even by the church. He expects the Churches to help him and others by facilitating access to Government schemes and support to lead dignified lives.
Yet another PWD, Ms. Rupika Lahare also regretted that most people in society excludes PWDs. “Several times I started hating the society. I am a dancer and compete with other able fellow dancers, but I am denied opportunities on many occasions”, she said.
Ms. Mukta Asna, the Assistant Director, State Rehabilitation Programme, Government of Chhattisgarh, informed about different schemes and policies of the Government for the PWDs and encouraged the churches to make them available for the needed people in our society. She also promised and urged the Christian community to bring the PWDs in the mainstream, educate and give them opportunities to lead dignified lives as any normal person would do.
Mr. Vikas Uphadhyay, a Member of Legislative Assembly, Government of Chhattisgarh appreciated the Churches’ initiative and assured that, he would be an advocate for PWD rights and campaign to promote and defend their rights.
Rev. Dr. Roger Gaikwad facilitated the Group discussion about our own commitments towards the issues related to PWDs as individuals, Churches and Organizations, and how we could mainstream the issues ministerially. Mr. Sathia Rabbin Das and Rev. Samsheer Samuel proposed the vote of thanks. Rev. Christopher Rajkumar offered the closing prayer and Rev. Dr. Roger Gaikwad pronounced the benediction. Ms. Cynthia Shinde, IDEA – Engage Disability Regional Hub Facilitator organized the program.
This Awareness and consultation has inspired and motivated the participants to commit themselves to welcoming the PWDs inside the churches by becoming disabled-friendly churches. Especially the CNI Grace Cathedral committed to build ramps immediately. As a Diocese, the Chhattisgarh Diocese is planning for introducing disabled-friendly policies. The Chhattisgarh Christian Council is planning to launch a campaign to defend and affirm the rights of the PWDs. This was a very good learning experience for the participants and the organizers as well.