CHAI at “Engage Disability India 2017”
The second National Conference of “Engage Disability India 2017”, was held in Chennai on 14th November 2017 at LITE Auditorium, Chennai. It was indeed a powerful ecumenical gesture. The movement tries to bring together like-minded people and organizations who have a heart for disability, to develop strategies for the ministry, alongside those with disabilities in the church, and to equip church leadership and laity for disability inclusion.
The Conference was attended by over 500 delegates from all over the country and abroad belonging to various Christian denominations. The Catholic Health Association of India (CHAI) was represented by 53 delegates from Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
Most Rev. Theodore Mascarenhas, the Secretary-General of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), was one of the inaugural speakers along with Rt. Rev. Dr. George Stephen, Bishop of CSI Diocese of Madras; Rev. Dr. Roger Gaikwad, General Secretary of National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) and Rev. Dr. Daniel Rathnakara Sadananda, General Secretary of the Church of South India Synod.
Addressing the participants, Bishop Dr George Stephen averred that the context of disability calls for overcoming hostility and insensitivity towards persons with disabilities (PwDs). He also urged them to learn, understand and affirm the image of God in them as well as affirm equal rights, respect and dignity of all persons. Presiding over the inaugural ceremony, Rev. Dr. Daniel Rathnakara emphasized that disability Inclusion focuses on accessibility (functional, attitudinal and information – communication technology barriers), theological discourse (engaging, promoting and building body of knowledge on Indian disability theological discourse through grassroots engagement) and networking.
Bishop Theodore reiterated that the Christian Church is the leader in engaging disability in India. He highlighted the need for all Churches to come together in favour of the poor, the underprivileged and deprived sections, including persons with disabilities. He reminded the participants that the real disabled is the one who does not have any compassion in his/her heart. To take the ‘Engage Disability’ movement forward, better networking among the Churches is imperative.