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Church urged to include those with disabilities fully in church life

The Church needs to engage with people who have disabilities in worship, work and theological studies and be more inclusive, says a leader of the World Council of Churches Ecumenical Disability Advocates Network (WCC-EDAN).

World Council of Churches is one of the ecumenical partners supported in part by the Interdenominational Cooperation Fund of the United Methodist Church. This apportionment enables United Methodists to share a presence and a voice in the activities of several national and worldwide ecumenical organizations.

On 3 December WCC-EDAN noted that the world marked the International Day of Persons with Disabilities by participating in Liturgy at the Holy Trinity Orthodox Church, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Kenya.

The main aim of this day is to create awareness on disability issues as well as to promote dignity and rights of persons with disabilities in social, political and economic aspects of society.

WCC-EDAN, through sharing the experiences of persons with disabilities in church life, has challenged the Church to be more disability inclusive to realize sustainable and resilient communities.

"There is need for the Church to hold conversations on how to include persons with disabilities in worship, diaconal work, theological studies and in leadership," said Ms. Anjeline Okola, WCC-EDAN's executive secretary.

"This is the only way we can change their lives and create sustainable and resilient communities," she explained.

The stories of persons with disabilities shared day proved that once the Church accepts them as people with gifts, then the society must follow.

"When my parents took me to church, I was accepted, given the opportunity to participate in church activities as a Sunday school child, through my teenage years and now as a minister.  This inclusion in church made it possible for me to be reconciled with my community," said Rev. Sarah Theuri, a person with cerebral palsy and a minister with the Methodist Church in Kenya.

Theuri's experience was echoed by Solomon, a blind young man of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Kenya whom the church allowed to participate in liturgy as an altar boy. This helped Solomon build confidence even in his studies.

"We need to empower persons with disabilities and give them opportunities to participate in church life on an equal basis with others. It's time the Church re-examines the way it has been engaging with disability issues," said Fr. Evangelos Thiani of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Kenya.

At the end of the liturgy, persons with disabilities further appealed to the Greek Orthodox Church to make its liturgical books in accessible formats for the visually impaired.

World Council of Churches website

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