Churches need to accommodate disabled persons, African scholars say

Scholars from theological institutions in East Africa are challenging Bible publishers, distributors and translators to produce more texts in Braille, sign language and audio, in measures being proposed to improve training and integration of disabled persons. 

The 30 academicians from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania gathered from 29 February to 1 March in Nairobi to draw guidelines for teaching disabilities studies in theology schools. 

"There are some Braille Bibles, but they are not dispersed evenly or far enough. And I think the United Bible Society together with the Bible Society of Kenya should now be thinking of Braille or audio Bibles," the Rev. Godffrey Ngumi, general secretary of the Association of Theological Institutions told ENInews. 

According to Ngumi, this move is long overdue. "I am talking about the Bible because it is one of the central texts in theological education," said Ngumi. 

Samuel Kabue, executive secretary of Ecumenical Disability Advocates Network (EDAN), a project of the World Council of Churches (WCC), which was an organizer of the meeting, said the guidelines were being developed to stimulate discussion. 

"We realized that if we can address this concern to theological institutions, so that they can begin teaching something on disability … those ministers would be more prepared when they encounter disabled people in the field," he said in an interview. 

According to Kabue, persons with disabilities have common concerns like those expressed in liberation and feminist theologies. "We now see an emerging liberation theology for people with disability. It is because they are a marginalized group within the church and we are trying to raise their voice," he said. 

The courses are being designed to enable disabled persons to use their talents and abilities, so that they can have chances like any other human being, according to Professor Joseph Galgalo, vice-chancellor of St. Paul’s University, an ecumenical institution in the Limuru area near Nairobi. 

"They should be part of society. Equally in the church, they should be part of the body of Christ and recognized as such," said Galgalo.

(This story was provided and used with permission by ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.)