When it comes to disability, the argument that reigns in society is that of a limited human being, and when it comes to a condition such as deafness, the conversation at homes, institutions and even in churches all around the world defines one model: not only of a quiet, silent and mute human being—but an invisible participant.
I was born deaf and my more than 12 years as part of the World Council of Churches Ecumenical Disability Advocates Network and also as youth coordinator for Mesoamerica region, have shaped my arguments that the most important aspect of people—despite their capacities and abilities—is that we are all created in God’s image. His compassionate love is not questionable and deaf people are His people just like any other person.
My work and my life as part of so many World Council of Churches assemblies, because I have been a speaker for several assemblies, has been a testament of my voice, not just a physical voice, but a spiritual voice given to me by God to unify our congregation. I am amazed at how giving His love is for us, with enough capacity to overcome any challenge and even more, to accomplish our purpose beyond any limitation. Isaac did it, Jacob did it, Samson did it, and to this day, I continuously live by my commandment to let my deafness become a source of blessing, love and perseverance.
We are celebrating the international week of the deaf, and it is a celebration to have deaf persons in our churches. According to the World Health Organization, deafness is more common than any other disability. This reminds us that God walks among us in many different races, languages and capacities and we must embrace this diversity as part of our churches and not just in theological conversations.
As a person with a disability, I have realized that living in a silent word does not mean that I have to keep silent, because the joy of being a son of God is a louder voice, a louder demonstration of His love. Deaf people are not a punishment. When we walk into a church and praise the Lord with a content, honored and grateful heart in a hearing world, we are a source of empowerment.
My pilgrimage has moved me to many territories in my country, Costa Rica and across the borders in many continents as the voice of many of our deaf brothers and sisters, and when I finish a speech, the congregation of many churches in the world come to me and tell me “Fabián, you are an inspiration” and I appreciate these kind words, taking that same inspiration to many schools for the deaf, government commissions, state and private institutions, because celebrating the deaf diversity is raising awareness and visibility in actions.
I invite our churches, organizations and members of society, to be part of this celebration by:
- Planning activities that involve the deaf community as active protagonists and not just mere spectators.
- Creating channels of communication in our congregations through blogs, social networks, websites and services with sign language interpreters and the use of written resources and video subtitles.
- Engaging with conversations about the abilities and not the limitations of our deaf brothers and sisters.
- Promoting spaces of inclusive theological reflections and participation of deaf members as moderators and facilitators of the reflection.
- Raising awareness of human rights and justice for the deaf people as visibility stands with a dignity of life.
And finally, as this brother in God prays for your heart, pray for our hearts, because at the end of the day, this is a celebration of life and with it, perseverant hearts to be heard.