World Council of Churches

A worldwide fellowship of churches seeking unity, a common witness and Christian service

Summary report

By Samuel Kabue

01 December 2003

2003 EDAN Summary report

By Samuel Kabue

This is our third meeting, which brings the EDAN members together since the inception of the Network. The purpose of the meeting is to fellowship, reflect, share experiences, present Regional reports and to plan forward as was the vision in the first meeting in December 1999 in Nairobi. The last meeting of the kind took place in Cartigny, Switzerland in October 2001, which is exactly two years ago. This summary report covers the period in between that meeting and this present one.

As it will be recalled, the major event that captured the entire World attention at the time was the September 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in the United States. President George Bush was threatening to take military action against Afghanstan, which was considered the haven of the terrorists and the host country to Osama Bin Laden, the considered mastermind for the US attack.

Looming in the air at the same time was a global economic recession, which had suddenly been accelerated by the US attack. As we were in Cartigny, one of the manifestations of this worsening economic situation was the announced bankruptcy of the National Swiss Air. No sector seems to have gone unaffected by all these economic ills. WCC found itself in a serious financial shortage as a result of falling investment values, less income from partners and falling levels of its reserves. Although the Council was in the middle of a three years planned activity cycle which had began in 2000, it had to go back to the drawing board with major cuts on personnel and programme funding for 2002 which was the last year in the plan cycle. EDAN was not spared in the cuts but the worst was to come in the plans for the next Cycle (2003-2005). The plans brought with them a major reorganization, which did away with some of the programmes and drastically reduced others. Examples of such major changes included doing away with the cluster system with all regular programmes being placed under one director. Some of the teams that operated separately were brought together and this came with loss of jobs for some people and what seemed like demotions for others who headed teams, which were merged with others. The Regional Relations Team under which all Regional Desks operated was not spared these changes. The Desks are now under what was renamed Diakonia and Solidarity. Some of the major changes here included the re-location of the Pacific and the Middle East Desks from Geneva to their respective Regions. As at the last Central Committee in August-September, the Pacific Desk was already operating from Fiji. The Middle East Desk was not as yet operational as there was no staff person to get it going. The previous staff had resigned amidst all these changes.

The changes in the Justice, Peace and Creation (JPC), the Team into which EDAN is a part may not be considered to be major compared with other teams. The team leader is still Dr. Aruna Gnanadason whose support for EDAN has no measure. A number of significant changes have however taken place. These changes have largely to do with financial cuts. The three Advisory Groups, namely JPC, Women and Youth have been abolished and replaced with a single Commission on Justice Peace and Creation (CJPC). EDAN is represented in the new Commission by Our Brother Noel Fernadez. The various Reference Groups that were responsible to the Advisory groups have either ceased to exist or have taken very different form. In cases where they are retained, they will be purely advisory without any managerial or executive powers. EDAN will retain a Reference Group with some changes in accordance to some guidelines agreed upon within the JPC during the Central Committee. By virtue of being the EDAN representative in the new Commission, Noel Fernadez is automatically a member of the Reference Group to be constituted. The Indigenous People programme under Eugenio Poma has been relocated to Bolivia and will operate under the auspices of the Latin America Conference of Churches (CLAI). The Decade to Overcome Violence is operating outside JPC and the former staff with whom we had established very good working relations has moved to Faith and Order.

It is significant to note that amidst all these changes, EDAN found itself in a very difficult situation financially. Our funding was reduced by a third in 2002 and to less than a quarter of the 2001 level in 2003. As a result, a number of activities planned in 2002 had to be cut down while no programme activities including our Newsletter were funded in 2003. Our funding allocation in 2003 was CHF 50,000 (Fifty thousand Swiss Francs only). Though little, Aruna Gnanadason only got this after much bargaining and squeezing of other programmes in JPC. This amount is not even enough for our administrative expenses. We are only able to stay afloat because we had some savings in our Nairobi account, which had accumulated over the last three years. The idea of funding our administration was to ensure that the office runs and is able to buy time as funds are raised. Unless more funds are raised, there is no way the programme will survive next year. However, we have been able this year to carry out a number of activities through either collaborating with other programmes or in fundraising directly for specific activities.

Another significant move related to your Nairobi office is the fact that the Consultant opted to take an early retirement from his regular job with the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) to concentrate on EDAN work. The plan was that EDAN would still operate under the auspices of NCCK as per the WCC arrangement. However, its offices were relocated from the Council's Headquarters to Limuru Conference and Training Centre, another NCCK property thirty kilometers away from the City.

Although this meant taking EDAN work on full time basis, no change has so far taken place to have WCC meet a full time salary. To them, this remains a 40 percent position. It will only change when the financial situation improves. The Consultant is therefore, as far as the WCC is concerned paid with this 40 percent which was previously going to NCCK as compensation for time spent on EDAN work. Angela moved with the programme under the same terms as she was. NCCK has extended its generosity by supplementing my salary and paying for a driver until the end of this year. It is hoped that by that time, the financial situation will have improved and that WCC will be in a position to take over. We are using the same car that I used in NCCK but the maintenance is now borne by the Programme. Discussions are going on between WCC and All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) to have EDAN change from operating under the Auspices of NCCK to working under the cover of AACC. In the first place, this is in line with the WCC decentralization process where they are placing their work under the cover of Regional Ecumenical Organizations. It is also felt that EDAN would have greater impact and visibility operating under a Regional body. These changes could take place as early as January next year. The change will among other things call for a relocation of the offices to AACC building back in the City.

A New General Secretary: The most significant event during the August Central Committee meeting was the acceptance of the retirement of Dr. Conrad Raiser after eleven years in the highest office in WCC and the appointment of Dr. Samuel Kobia to replace him as the New General Secretary. It is, of course very difficult to imagine WCC without Dr. Raiser and this was very clear in the emotional send-of ceremony that took place at the Bossey Institute. It is obvious that there some initiatives that he had put in process which only himself fully understand and these might suffer because of his exit. An example is what has been termed as the Reconfiguration of the Ecumenical Movement. He will be greatly missed. However, it is also a very welcome move for EDAN to have a General Secretary who has clearly identified himself with us as was witnessed in our last meeting in Cartigny. His interest in our work has been made even more clearer by visiting our office at Limuru only a month after his appointment. EDAN has the responsibility of ensuring that that interest is sustained through our work.

ACTIVITIES

The activities highlighted in this report are those, which were implemented from the Nairobi offices only. It is assumed that those implemented in the Regions even if there was any form of facilitation from my office will be reported by the Regional Coordinators.

1. EDAN NEWSLETTER

We have been able to produce all the planned issues of EDAN newsletter in the year 2002 and the first half of 2003. These newsletters served to maintain Communication and fellowship between EDAN members, WCC member Churches, National and Regional Ecumenical bodies as well as other key people whose contact has been essential to our work. We continued to solicit articles from individuals involved in Disability work. During the course of the report period, we were able to carry articles that were related to disability and theology in line with the theological reflections on the issue of persons with disabilities. We have been producing and distributing 1000 copies and requests for new subscriptions continue to flow to our EDAN office an indication that EDAN has become more widely known and that more people want to associate with it. The newsletter has now been placed in the WCC web site and we are therefore able to attract even greater readership. Among our constraints was that we received very few articles from the members of our Network. This is a situation that need addressing if the Newsletter is to remain the key communication and sharing channel and more so when funds to travel are no longer available. As mentioned earlier, there was no funding for the Newsletter in the 2003 budget. We have had to specifically fund raise for this. LWF and the United Church of Canada have so far provided necessary finances for the publications. We still have enough funds for the remaining two issues of this year.

2. EASTERN AFRICA FEDERATION OF THE DISABLED/EDAN CONSULTATION

This consultation took place from July 10th to 13th, 2003 in Mombasa, Kenya and jointly organized by Eastern Africa Federation of the Disabled and EDAN. The consultation brought together participants from 9 countries in the sub-region. The main objective was to establish a strategic plan for the African Decade of Persons with Disabilities in Eastern Africa, discuss the establishment of a secretariat for EAFOD and help in the laying of decade implementation strategies for persons with disabilities in the sub-region and discuss capacity building for organizations of persons with disabilities towrads implementation of the decade at national levels. The result of the consultation was the production of a plan of action for capacity building of the organizations of persons with disabilities to influence integration of disability into government planning. The consultation was able to finalize a draft constitution for EAFOD and to lay down plans for the registration of EAFOD in Kenya. There has been other two follow up meetings by a small working team, one last year and the other in August this year.

3. THEOLOGICAL STATEMENT DRAFTING TEAM MEETINGS

 

The first meeting after Cartigny took place from April 25th to 29th 2002 at Chavannes de Bogis in Switzerland. The drafters included representatives of Faith and Order, EDAN Consultant, EDAN Members of the drafting team and a representative of the Intellectually challenged. The purpose of the meeting was to review the different pieces from the various drafters and to start the process of putting them together into a single statement. The result of the meeting was an agreement on the format of the document, which was to be pieced together and sent out to the drafting team participants for comments and improvement. A follow up meeting of the same drafters was to take place from November 25th to 29th, 2002. However, owing to financial constraints, only three members were able to attend this second drafting meeting, which was funded by Faith and Order. The result of this meeting was a refined document which was circulated to all the other drafters and participants of the October, 2001 Cartigny meeting.

4. CENTRAL COMMITTEE MEETINGS

There have been two Central Committee meetings since Cartigny. EDAN was represented by Gordon Cowans and Arne Fritzson who attended as advisors in the Central Committee that took place between 26th August to 6th September, 2002. As it had been agreed during the previous Central Committee meeting, EDAN had a Padare during this meeting. The aim of the Padare was to start a conversation with members of the Central Committee that can feed into the process of developing a new Interim Statement on the Theological Understanding of the Issues Concerning People with Disabilities. The discussion on the Padare focused on four areas; Disability and Anthropology; Disability and Theology; Disability and Ecclesiology and Disability and the life of the churches.

This activity was attended by some members of the Central Committee in which they got a chance to discuss what EDAN is doing and especially regarding the theological statement on the issues relating to persons with disabilities. The activity was well received and was able to build into the Plenary that was held on the same issue during this year's Central Committee.

This year's Central Committee took place between 26th August and 2nd September, 2003. A whole 90 minutes plenary was dedicated to EDAN. To us who were there, this was the brightest moment for EDAN. The whole of the attention of the Central Committee was focused on EDAN for 90 minutes through Arne and I. Arne presented the bible study and the closing worship and I made the presentation on EDAN and the Interim Theological Statement which is now before you for discussion. The Statement was a reflection of three years of cooperation between EDAN and Faith and Order. The plenary was like the climax of a long journey with all the brightness of a hope realized. Both the Policy Reference II and the Programme Committees took time to discuss EDAN in general and the statement in particular. Resulting from their recommendation herein appended, the Central Committee commended the statements to the member churches for study, feedback and action. It also pledged to give support to the work of EDAN. The entire atmosphere and the engagement throughout the Central Committee was full of hope for the future of EDAN work. Arne at the end of it remarked, "What shall we do with all the money that will come to EDAN after this!"

5. PARTICIPATION IN DOV

Razaka Manantenasoa had been nominated by the Cartigny meeting to represent EDAN as a member of the DOV Reference group. She attended her first meeting in June 2002 with very promising prospects of good working relations. The participants agreed to search for ways to make DOV activities visible while ensuring the essential future as churches in reaching reconciliation and peace. The EDAN participant found the participation in DOV as valuable because it had opened up wider horizons in thinking about violence and disabilities as general trends in violent situations have been analyzed and connections with disability proved evident. As a result of this meeting, EDAN had started to plan a process of conducting case studies on the relationship between disability and systematic violence, war and human rights violations with the intention to help develop education materials on the effects of violence on persons with disabilities. The staff changes in DOV and the financial difficulties already highlighted have worked negatively in respect to these plans.

6. WEEK OF MEETINGS

There are usually two sessions of week of meetings annually in WCC. It is not possible mainly for financial reasons to attend all the two. During this report period, the Consultant attended the week of meetings twice, which meant once each year. The first one was attended upon invitation from the Justice Peace and Creation coordinator from April 23rd to 26th, 2002. Of significance was the internal evaluation of EDAN work that was done by the core group members of the JPC Advisory. During this week various meetings were held with Education and Ecumenical Formation Team and the Asia, Latin America and Caribbean Desk Secretaries. The other meeting attended was concerning a possible cooperation between International Labour Organisation and the World Council of Churches. As an outcome of these networks created during this week, the Latin America Desk sponsored the Latin America Blind Indigenous Consultation; the Asia Desk pledged to sponsor an Asia consultation on Ecumenical Agenda on Churches in Solidarity with the Differently-Abled while the Caribbean Regional Coordinator was involved in the meeting of the Council of Churches of the Caribbean Region.

The Second Week of meetings in early May this year was attended at the insistence of the Reference Group meeting which met in Bangkok, Thailand in March this year. The meeting observed the impact of the attendance of the first week of meeting and advised that the Consultant do everything possible to attend the meeting despite the financial situation in which the Programme was in. Aruna Gnanadason as usual supported this recommendation and funds were somehow made available. Discussions were again held with various desks out of which the financing of three main activities for next year was pledged. These are a consultation for the Pacific Region, a conference on globalization and disability to take place in Africa and the long waited workshop on disability discourse and curriculum influence in Theological institutions. Other cooperation entered into was the development of bible study materials from the Interim Theological Statement by Dr. Simon Oxley of Mission and Ecumenical Formation Team. Very useful discussions were also held with Tara Tautari of the Scholarship Programme on the future relationship between her Programme and EDAN.

7. REFERENCE GROUP MEETING

We have held one Reference Group meeting since Cartigny. The meeting was held on 15th and 16th March this year and was planned to coincide with the Asia Consultation on Ecumenical Agenda of Churches in Solidarity with Differently Abled Persons. EDAN and the Christian Conference of Asia had jointly organized the Consultation with funding from the WCC Asia Desk. The two EDAN members based in Asia Ying-Bo and Lee Ye Ja participated in that meeting. The report of that meeting is herein attach for your study, comment and information. One highlight in the report that I would like to call your attention to was the deliberations on possible ways of raising funds for the work of EDAN. Some of the suggestions included:

  • Approaching a celebrity who has a disability to release a record for sale. Proceeds from this would go to the programme funding. In this regard the following personalities were proposed: Stevie Wonder from USA, Lina Marie from Sweden, Andre Bottelli an Opera singer from Italy; Doleres of the ‘touched by an Angel' fame

  • Approach other high profile people like Oprah Winfrey a TV host to host a programme on persons with disabilities and ask her to talk about EDAN.

I would very much appreciate your comments on this suggestions.

8. OTHER ISSUES AND CHALLENGES

1. Bossey Seminar:

 

Our plans in Cartigny indicated that we were to have a seminar on issues of disability with a view to widen the scope of input to the process of developing the Theological Statement and to carry out an in-depth discussion on disability concern. The announcement on the seminar had even been placed on the Bossey bulletin and calendar of events making us to receive a lot of enquiries from all over. Two major factors were responsible for the cancellation of the seminar. First, the funds set aside for this were part of the one-third cut from our budget. Secondly, Bossey Institute was undergoing renovation by November last year when the seminar was planned to take place. We were still to organize a smaller meeting to work on the draft Statement on the same dates that this seminar was planned but owing to finances, only three people funded by Faith and Order attended that meeting.

 

2. Stockholm Meeting:

It will be remembered that we had planned to hold a major consultation in Stockholm last May to discuss among other things the draft Theological Statement ahead of the August Central Committee meeting. We were to take the opportunity of that Conference to bring you together as has now happened. This meeting was postponed due to lack of funds. Suffices to mention that a lot of preparations had gone on especially among the Stockholm Ecumenical Movement who were very disappointed to learn that it had been postponed. Although the Interim Theological Statement which was to be the central focus for the conference has already been commended to the churches by the Central Committee, it is proposed that the Swedish churches be approached to finance a global event to be held in their country with a slightly different focus. Arne Fritzson has undertaken to talk to his church regarding the issue of funds with a hope of holding the meeting sometimes next year.

3. EDAN Coordinators participation in Regional meetings:

During the Cartigny meeting, Marta Palmer who was at the time the head of the Regional team pledged to provide an opportunity for EDAN's participation in Regional meetings. True to her word, she invited our coordinators for Regional meetings in the particular two regions, which she was directly in charge. These were the Caribbean and Latin America. This is a direction that we will continue to encourage with all the other Regions. We will take up the matter with the new Executive Secretary for Diakonia and Solidarity.

4. Scholarship Programme:

Discussions have been held with the Scholarship Programme Executive Secretary Tara Tautari. She has agreed to recognize EDAN as a scholarship Correspondence on an experimental basis. What this means is that EDAN will be notified of available scholarships and will be allowed to nominate possible candidates for scholarship available scholarships awards. We will circulate announcement to our coordinators who will make their recommendations, which we will forward, to the scholarship committee.

In the meanwhile, the Programme responding to a request made through the National Council of Churches of Kenya agreed to finance a computer literacy group course for the visually impaired to take place in Limuru Conference and training Center This November. The Programme will meet the accommodation, board, travel and will also pay the trainers. Twenty trainees from the three East Afrca countries will take the course which will last five weeks. EDAN has had to source for the hardware and software from other partners outside the Ecumenical fraternity.

5. Theological Anthropology:

The Cartigny meeting was informed of the Theological Anthropology process under Faith and Order and a need was expressed for EDAN participation in the process. The meeting agreed that Professor John Hull of the University of Birmingham who was at Cartigny represent the disability fraternity in a meeting that was to take place in Jerusalem last year in February. John Hull was able to attend the meeting as agreed.

6. Risk Book:

The writing of the Risk book before the end of this year is in course. Arne Fritzson has already done the first peace which he defines as having been done from the point of view of a Northern European white middle class ordained mailperson with disability. I am working on the second part, which will be from a different perspective based on my background and EDAN experience. I trust that it will be ready in time.

7. Ecumenical Review Publication:

This is the year when we were to make our contribution to the Ecumenical Review Publication. We have not made any plans for this because as up to now, it is not clear whether this publication has been discontinued as was the case with other JPC publications.

8. Pacific Region:

The Reference Group in Bangkok observed that EDAN has not as yet made impact in the Pacific Region. It was advised that Lee Ye Ja who is the Acting Regional Co-ordinator for that region be facilitated to travel there to help establish contacts with the Regional Conference and other support groups that we could network with. Discussion has since that time taken place between the Consultant and the Executive Secretary to the Pacific Desk, which has now been Relocated to Fiji. It has been agreed that the Desk will finance a consultation to be organized sometimes next year. We believe that this consultation will set pace for the work in the Region by helping to identify contact people based in the Region who could be part of the Network.

9. Middle East Region:

It is noted that not much is happening in the Middle East Region. Our Co-ordinator there Mr. Elie Rhabani seem to be having difficulties in either making EDAN visible or establishing a network of people who could work with him. This may partly be attributable to the fact that he also seems to have a lot of personal problems. The Reference Group had observed that a visit there to meet with him and with the Conference of Churches to discuss this would be necessary. The Consultant intends in accordance with the advise of the Reference Group to make a visit there. Such a visit will be made once WCC has appointed a staff person to the relocated Middle East Desk as a first step to introduce Elie Rhabani and to plan how EDAN could work with the Desk.

10. Conference of European Churches:

It had also been noted that by the time of the Reference Group meeting in Bangkok, contact with the Conference of European Churches had fallen back. It was felt that our Europe Co-ordinator and the other EDAN team members in the Region had not worked or even been in touch with what was happening in the Conference. For instance, The Conference was organizing its General Assembly in Norway which took place in June and there were no plans for the participation of EDAN. The Reference Group advised that contact needed to be renewed and that EDAN will need to be more proactive in this regard. I am glad to report that this has already been done. The Conference has appointed a contact staff person with whom EDAN will henceforth work. Through this effort and renewed working relationship, the Conference is represented in the European Consultation "For a Change" with which the EDAN Global meeting has been organized to coincide.

11. New Zealand Conference:

EDAN had an invitation to participate and make a presentation in a Conference organized by the disability church groups in conjunction with the Council of Churches in New Zealand. The theme of the Conference was "Disability, Culture and Spirituality". Although EDAN had even made a financial contribution towards the planning of the Conference, the Consultant could not have been able to participate in it because it was to take place at the same time with the week of meetings. Joseph Ying-bo was the next person who should have attended that Conference as the Coordinator for Asia Region but he too was not available. Ye Ja Lee was requested and facilitated to represent EDAN. She was able to make a presentation and to introduce EDAN. This was an important opportunity for EDAN as Ye Ja was able to make new contacts in that part of the Asia Region.

12. All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) General Assembly:

This will take place in Yaounde, Cameroon between 22nd and 27th November this year. It has been agreed that EDAN will have a plenary during which we have been requested to make a powerful actionable presentation whose recommendations will be implementable and simple to monitor. AACC has invited four members of EDAN to ensure adequate visibility and participation in the Assembly. The Assembly will meet accommodation and board expenses for all the four but has requested EDAN to make a contribution by meeting the cost of Air tickets. The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) on our request has kindly agreed to grant us the funds for the four Air tickets. A Statement in line with what we made at the WCC Central Committee but whose recommendations are specific to the churches in Africa is under preparation.

13. Theological Discourse in the Institutions of Learning:

We have, since our very first Reference Group meeting in the year 2000 at John Knox Center in Geneva been discussing possible entry point into theological institutions to influence introduction of disability discourse. The suggestion was to begin with a small but dynamic group that would set the pace on the direction we should take. We had agreed to start with a tripartite exchange of ideas by Stockholm School of Theology, St. Paul's Limuru Theological College and United Theological College of the West Indies. The plan was to bring together select members of staff from these institutions together with EDAN for a brainstorm session on how best to introduce and interest Theological institutions on disability as a subject. It has taken long to implement this suggestion mainly due again to financial reasons but I am glad to report that a grant of $10, 000 (Ten thousand US Dollars) has been made by EEF towards this activity. This is especially timely because the Interim Statement is already commended to the churches and will therefore form a key-working document in the workshop. It is planned that in addition to the three institutions mentioned above, two others, one in Philipines to represent Asia Region and another from Eastern Europe will be involved. St. Paul's United Theological College, Limuru, Kenya is to be approached to host the meeting sometimes next year. It is hoped that at least five of the Network members to match the number of those from the theological institutions will also participate.

14. UN Disability Convention:

Most of you will already be aware of the efforts by the international disability community to push for a UN Disability Human Rights Convention. This move is based on the premises that other efforts since 1981 UN International Year of Persons with Disabilities have not gone far enough to improve the lives of persons with disabilities world over. Although such documents like the World Programme of Action and the UN Standard Rules On Equalization of Opportunities have created a lot of awareness, it is time to move from awareness to actions. Provisions of these earlier documents are only suggestions, which states could adopt or ignore. It is hoped that the Convention would form the basis for enforcement at the UN level and domestication in national legislations. UN has conceded to this idea and has formed an Ad-hoc committee which is formed by both Governments and Non-governmental organizations accredited to the UN. We have as part of the World Council of Churches, which is accredited to the UN seeking to participate in the work of the Ad-hoc Committee whose mandate is to consult and put together the concerns that the Convention would address. We have in this connection entered into discussion with the WCC UN representative who has agreed to visit us in Nairobi in the near future to strategize on how this could be don and to introduce us to the UN offices in Nairobi to enable us to be dealing with them directly.

15. Towards Porto Allegre:

The 9th WCC General Assembly will take place in Porto Allegre, Brazil in February 2006. As you all will recall, EDAN is a product of the 8th Assembly in Harare. It is imperative to start thinking of what we have to show to the Assembly for our existence if we will live to that date. It is anticipated that the Assembly will be much smaller than was the case in Harare and this is again as a result of the declined financial position of WCC. If EDAN is to take a similar number of advisors/observers as was the case in Harare, we will have to let WCC know how that will be financed. I very much welcome your advise on this but in the meanwhile, we are seeking the possibilities of participating in the Assembly Committee to see if we could influence consideration of adequate representation of EDAN in the Assembly. We have been in discussion with the Deputy General Secretary who is the chairman of the staff Assembly Committee and Aruna is helping us to push for representation in the Committee. In our earlier discussions at Catigny and at the last Reference Group meeting, we have expressed the wish to have a disability Pre-Assembly conference to help formulate our recommendations to the assembly. I am not able to report the possibilities of this because up to now, it is not clear whether there will be any Pre-Assembly conferences including those which have been traditional like the Women and the Youth ones. What was in the air as at August during the Central Committee was the idea of an Ecumenical Social Forum instead of the Pre-assemblies. The form and participation in that forum was still at discussion level. It is however necessary for EDAN to think of the possibilities of another global meeting close to the Assembly and possibly to take place somewhere in Latin America.