World Council of Churches Office of Communication
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9 December 1998

WCC Eighth Assembly - Press Release No. 26

Shona singing and drumming heralded a Differently-Abled Persons event held at the World Council of Churches Assembly in Zimbabwe Wednesday (9 December). Members of the Siyeza Drama Group, a Bulawayo-based community arts programme for young persons, presented an original play, "A Time to Change", aimed at increasing awareness of the needs of children, women and men with physical and developmental disabilities.

The play, performed by an eight-member ensemble, focused on the issue of discriminatory employment practices, and challenged the audience to "change your attitude" about persons with disabilities, recognizing them as full human beings.

The event was part of the Eighth Assembly's Padare, a showcase of concerns by 400 Christian groups. The Padare facilitator,Peter Mawindo, an adviser to the WCC, said that persons with disabilities are marginalised and therefore more vulnerable to the effects of poverty and economic crisis.

"We hope to get the message out through drama," said Mawindo, adding that the issue of disabilities has yet to be addressed fully by the WCC.

"The welfare of disabled persons requires greater commitment, [with] the Church assuming a position of acceptance. In the New Testament, Jesus was open to the cries of the disabled person." He added: "We are still not well accepted, except within our own community" of disabled persons.

Mawindo, a Zimbabwean who has helped to develop a local sports club for disabled persons, said: "The [level of] participation of disabled persons in the whole Assembly is not pleasing. We do not have a say [in the proceedings]. There are no quotas for us. The Assembly has talked about women, youth, and everyone else, but not about disabled persons."

A later disabilities meeting is expected to produce a position paper, to be presented to the Assembly. "The WCC needs to look at the issues," Mawindo said.

He added that individuals with disabilities need to explore what the Assembly theme means for them. "'Turn to God - Rejoice in Hope' has a lot of meaning for people with disabilities," he said. "Their disability does not demand pity but acceptance that results in a more inclusive Christian community."

Contact: John Newbury, WCC Press & Information Officer
Press and Information Office, Harare
Tel: +
E-Mail: WCC media

The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 339, in more than 100 countries in all continents from virtually all Christian traditions. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member church but works cooperatively with the WCC. The highest governing body is the Assembly, which meets approximately every seven years. The WCC was formally inaugurated in 1948 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Its staff is headed by general secretary Konrad Raiser from the Evangelical Church in Germany.