“Walking Together with People with Disabilities: Serving Justice, Peace and Inclusion

Institute on Disability

19 – 22 November 2018, Nagpur

The Indian Disability Ecumenical Accompaniment of the National Council of Churches in India in partnership with the World Council of Churches – Ecumenical Disability Advocates Network, Church of Scotland- World Mission Council, Asia CMS and Christian Service Agency organised an Institute on Disability at the Mission India Theological Seminary Campus, Nagpur on 19 – 22 November 2018.

Sixty seven participants from different walks of life including Rights Defenders, Activists, Care-givers, Clerics, Academicians, Researchers, Development Practitioners and Community Leaders representing 37 organisations, including 18 persons with disabilities, participated in this institute.

The institute focused on the theme “Walking Together with People with Disabilities: Serving Justice, Peace and Inclusion.” This theme was highlighted from different viewpoints, such as Scanning the Disability Contexts from the societal, legal and medical perspectives as well as  from different faith perspectives, pondering on  questions such as: “How do religious scriptures address disability? How do the religions look at PWDs ? Are religious worshiping places accessible and inclusive? The Disability concerns  were also looked at from the struggles of the marginalized sections of society, through reflections on Caste and Disability, Gender and Disability and Indigenous views on disability. Another session  dealt with  bio-ethics and socio-spiritual ethics and disability. Further, the institute discussed about the educational, employment and social protection schemes related to PWDs and modern approaches to disability. There were times of sharing of faith stories by the PWDs and their siblings along with a session facilitating the participants to read the scriptures from the eyes and experiences of the PWDs.

This institute  initiated a discussion for the first time on the following issues: Re-productive Health Care to the visually and intellectually challenged adolescent girls,  Sexual Abuse of the Visually  and Intellectually Challenged,  Disability infanticide,  Caste (Dalit) and Disability,  Disability Economics,  Social Protection of  PWDs,  Disability Bio-ethics,  Gender and Disability,  Marriage and Disability, RPWD Acts and their implementation.  It was encouraging to note that some of the participating organisations and individuals have committed to work on PWD concerns in their expertise fields, and some of them already in action.

Dr. Sara Varghese, National Director of the Cristobel Blind Mission (CBM) delivered the key note and invited the participants, churches and NGOs to work towards inclusive communities through their ministerial and diaconal interventions. Dr. Sara further emphasized the importance of  affirming and facilitating the right of PWDs  to participate in the community and to have public access through pastoral care, theological articulations and policy developments. Mr. George Abraham, the Chief Functionary of  Score Foundation, and the Director of the Eye Way, emphasized  the need to have accessible and inclusive churches to ensure the participation of PWDs in the very life and work of the churches by creating disabled-friendly environment and by developing  disabled-friendly worship resources. Ms. Esther Mwai of the World Council of Churches – Ecumenical Disability Advocates Network introduced and informed the participants about the UN framework on Disability Convention and its importance in establishing  just and inclusive communities. Further, she also shared about global ecumenical and theological responses to  Disability Concerns, particularly through  the life and work of the WCC – EDAN and how it facilitates the Churches, Ecumenical Councils and Theological Fraternities in ministerially and diaconally addressing the issues of disability.

Rev. Dr. Roger Gaikwad, President of the NCCI -IDEA and the General Secretary of the NCCI inaugurated this Institute. Rev. Asir Ebenezer the NCCI – General Secretary Designate greeted the participants. Along wit the key note  speakers Rev. Dr. Saji Lukos, the President and Founder of the Mission India Theological Seminary wished his best for the institute. Rev. R. Christopher Rajkumar, Director, NCCI -IDEA and the Executive Secretary of the NCCI – Unity and Mission introduced the institute with words of welcome and organized this institute. Mrs. Lalremsiami, a Volunteer of the NCCI -IDEA assisted in coordinating this institute along with Ms. Jenifa Rani, Deacon Yeshudas Pandit, Mr. Jeswin Rajan, Ms Pranita Sandela and Ms. Megha Naik.

The institute suggested  the following areas of action:

  1. Working with  CBOs, Human Rights Organisations, PWD Organisations and  Government Agencies.
  2. Churches, Theological Colleges and the Ecumenical Organisations to work on articulating Disability Theology by  PWDs.
  3. Parents,  siblings and care-givers  to set  ministerial and diaconal agenda towards developing disabled-friendly and accessible congregations  and communities.
  4. Together, all shall involve in advocacy and lobbying to affirm the PWD Rights to Worship and Public Access (including worship places) by identifying and mobilizing  communities through awareness and sensitization initiatives and by integrating and mainstreaming disability concerns.

Many of the participants testified that  this institute was an eye opener in terms of dealing with some of the crucial and needed concerns for the first time and challenged the participants ministerially, theologically and diaconally. The Institute also provided information on relevant, modern and innovative approaches in the care-giving sector. This institute also facilitated a collegiality among the participating organisations on cross-learning and cross-fertilization.  Further, this institute facilitated an understanding of the inclusive nature of God through a re-reading of the scriptures.

Through this Institute, the NCCI recognized the life time contributions of Dr. William Stanley and the Rev. Chandra Mohan to the Church and Society at large. Dr. Stanley was remembered for his contributions towards organizing empowering the Indigenous, Dalit, women, fishing communities and other marginalized communities including the people with disabilities though the community based diaconal interventions for the past 5 decades in the remote areas from Mizoram to Kerala. Rev. Chandra Mohan contributed towards empowering the Dalit, women, indigenous fishing communities and facilitated congregations and the Churches to be in solidarity with  them. Both have represented Churches in building communities of hope and  gave a new vision for border-less Church for the past 50 years.

 

Reported by:

Rev. R. Christopher Rajkumar,

Director, NCCI – Indian Disability Ecumenical Accompaniment,

Executive Secretary, NCCI – Unity and Mission

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