“Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them.” Luke 7:22 (NRSV)
We, the twenty-seven (27) participants of the Asia-Pacific Consultation representing the ten (10) countries namely: Fiji, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Philippines, South Korea Taiwan, Kenya, and the U.SA., gathered on December 12-13, 2016 to wrestle on theme, “A Just and Life-Affirming Church and Society: Person with Disability Perspective.” The Consultation was hosted by the Asia-Pacific Indigenous Research Centre of Yu-shan Theological College and Seminary in Hualien, Taiwan and was sponsored by the Ecumenical Disability Advocates Network (EDAN) of the World Council of Churches. The Consultation aimed to provide a space for ministers, theologians and theological educators from selected countries in Asia, Pacific and Africa who are involved in disability work or teaching theology to share their experiences and make recommendations for further actions. We, as the Consultation participants, explored problems, challenges and prospects in teaching disability discourse. Moreover, there were presentations on the theme from theological perspective, explorations of the rights of persons with disability and responsibilities of the caregivers, disability, LGBTIQA, HIV/AIDS, disability care centers and the church, and theological education for an inclusive church.
We spent a considerable amount of time discussing the WCC-EDAN Statements on A Church of All and for All (2003) and The Gift of Being (2016). In this light, we also examined the role of the church as custodians of disability-inclusive communities in the Asia Pacific. The discussions focused on issues arising from the statements such as the global development towards a justice approach to disabilities in order to assist the churches in changing its attitude towards Persons with Disabilities (PWD). With these documents, the seminar upholds the ecumenical spirit to be the Church of All and for All in relation to theological education and church responsibilities. The conversations on the statements led us into calling the ecumenical family of churches to continue to work on becoming an inclusive church rather than being an exclusive one.
Since 2006 EDAN has introduced the disability discourse in theological education in Asia and Pacific, recognizing that it would bring a great impact on the life of the church. After ten (10) years, we thought that it is time to take further steps in developing disability discourse in the curriculum of theological education. We have identified challenges to the church and theological schools, which include biblical and theological foundations, as well as the issues of spirituality, body, sexuality, culture, women, inclusive vocabulary, human rights, history, counseling, and pastoral care.
For centuries, the issue of disability was not regarded as a theological issue. The work toward understanding disability and the advocacy for the persons with disability have come a long way. And yet, very few theological schools and churches have taken seriously the task at hand. EDAN has published two important Statements and many books, but these have not reached many local churches and the seminaries for some reasons. We therefore call on the church, the theological schools and seminaries to take up the concerns of persons with disability and make concrete steps to become truly a part of a Just and Life-Affirming Church and Society. We, the participants of the Consultation, and these institutions are commanded by God, through the prophet Amos, to “let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:24, NRSV)