The Nagpur Christian community is committed to listening to the Silent voices within their church. A group of forty persons representing various Church denominations, such as Protestants, Catholics, and Evangelicals, made a collective decision to empower their churches in responding to the rights of individuals with speech and hearing impairments. They aimed to enhance accessibility within their church spaces, ensuring that everyone could fully participate and engage in the community. Due to the invisible nature of the disability, people with speech and hearing impairments are frequently overlooked and ignored in the church and society
Focused on the value of accessibility in fostering a more welcoming and creating equal environment for all, the NCCI-Indian Disability Ecumenical Accompaniment (IDEA), in collaboration with the Church of North India-Social Service Institute (CNI-SSI) arranged a one-day workshop on the topic “Silent Voices: Empowering the Church’s Response to Speech and Hearing Impairment” on July 7th 2023 at CNI-SSI Nagpur Campus to tackle the reality of abandonment against the people. The workshop concentrated exclusively on Speech and Hearing Impairment and attempted to equip the Churches to be all-encompassing in their varied Ministries towards the group.
Rev. Dr. Asir Ebenezer, General Secretary NCCI, used the line “Dancing to a tune that they cannot hear” in his opening remarks referring to the dance recitals of children with hearing and speech impairment to prime the audience for the workshop. This statement sparked discussion about the church’s ignorance and the silent voices within it. He urged everyone there to change their focus from “learning about disability to learning to be a part of the life of people with disability.” Additionally, he claimed that the workshop’s goal was to “Empower ourselves to dismantle structures and attitudes that disable people and not just to Empower the people with Disability,” which was the justification for achieving inclusivity, particularly in churches and Christian groups.
The workshop’s resource person was SLP, audiologist, and disability theologian Dr. Sunil Kathramalla. He focused his conversation on four specific topics with the help of his substantial knowledge to address the silent voices in the church that are ignored. These topics included Sensitivity Training, Inclusive Worship Services, Assistive Devices and Technology, and Awareness and Education. He astutely offered practical suggestions that churches and Christian organisations might use to strengthen their ministerial endeavours and daily contacts, promoting inclusivity and justice. The workshop witnessed an interactive atmosphere between the attendees and the resource person. The active participation of the attendees projected the seriousness of the issue and the passion to work towards the “need of the hour”.
The program commenced at 11:00 am with a brief period of worship followed by the formal welcome address by Mrs Aradhana Upadhya, Director of CNI-SSI and the vote of thanks by Mr Thayil D Sam, Core group member, Engage Disability Nagpur Hub. The workshop ended with an ecumenical unity prayer for Manipur. As the workshop came to a close, it became evident that its impact would reverberate far beyond its duration, empowering the church to embrace the Silent , but vibrant, Voices of speech and hearing impairment, and paving the way for a future of genuine disability inclusion.