World Council of Churches

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

First global meeting, Kenya

08 December 1999

First EDAN global meeting

1- 8 DECEMBER 1999


The first global forum for the WCC's project on disabilities was held in Nairobi, Kenya from 1st -8th December 1999. The consultation, which brought together pioneer members of the Ecumenical Disability Advocates Network (EDAN) was primarily aimed at creating a forum through which Network members would institutionalize the WCC's project on disabilities and map its way forward. Specifically, the consultation's agenda was to:-

  • Develop a mission statement for EDAN;

  • Harmonize the network activities;

  • Develop a theological statement for EDAN;

  • Discuss the critical issues that the network needs to address in the next five years, and which are envisioned to inform the first strategic plan of EDAN.

At the end of the consultation, participants who were drawn from Africa, Europe, North America, Carribbean, Latin America and Asia agreed on various resolutions to guide the work of EDAN. This report summarizes the proceedings fo this Nairobi consultation.


After the opening worship led by Dr. Jesee Kamau, Moderator, Presbytarian Church of East Africa (PCEA), Mr. Samuel Kabue welcomed participants and moderated the session on self introductions. All invited participants had arrived except Noel Fernandez of Cuba who was reported to have experienced travel difficulties. He arrived three days later thus bring a total participants to 100%.

1. Official Opening

The official opening was attended by Rev. Mutava Musyimi, General Secretary NCCK, Rev. Jesee Kamau, Moderator Presbyterian Church of East Africa, Rev. Sentri Nyomi, All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC), Dr. Agnes Abuom, President WCC Africa and Dr. William Temu of WCC, Africa Desk.

2. Devotion by Rev. Jesee Kamau, Moderator PCEA


The Rev. Jesee Kamau of the Presbyterian Church of East Africa and a member of the Central Committee shared from Romans 5: 1-5 during the official opening. He compounded that in turning to God in faith, all of His people experience his goodness all because of the Grace of God. This grace, said the Presbyterian Moderator, serves as our shock absober, making life bearable in a world that is so prevalent of host. It also serves as our lubricant, making our turning easy in a life so full of friction.

Thirdly, it serves as our energizer, restoring our energy and zeal in a world that is so exhausting. Thus, no one has reason to excuse themselves from responsibilities. In any event, it is the Paul's was in his most disadvantaged positions that he rejoiced, and even wrote most of the epistles as we have them today.

In the same manner, we too ought to stive to be useful to God and His creation regardless of our confinements. Besides, we only need to give ourselves a good look to see how heavinly God has invested in us so that we can bless each other and all of God's people.

3. Message from NCCK General Secretary, Rev. Mutava Musyimi

In his opening remarks, Rev. Mutava Musyimi of NCCK welcomed participants to Nairobi, Kenya home for EDAN also Rev. Musyimi noted that the issues of people with disabilities was central to the Gospel of Christ and appreciated the WCC's commitment to disability issues. He welcomed the make by the WCC to have the NCCK host EDAN and pledged his full support to the work.( For a complete speech by Rev. mutava Musyimi, see appendix 1 on page ….. of this report)

4. Message from the AACC (Rev. Setri Nyomi)

Speaking on behalf of the All Africa Conference of Churches, Rev. Setri Nyomi said they celebrated the gift of EDAN and appreciated the commitment of WCC in furthering the disability agenda. Rev. Nyomi lamented the fact that todate unfortunate attitude, prevail towards people with disabilities making reference to John 9. Rev. Nyomi called on churches to appropriate the resources interest in the people with disabilities rather than engage in useless debate.

It is only through practical action that the church can be seen to be taking the message of Christ seriously. Rev. Nyomi encouraged EDAN to take up their agenda with boldness and vigour so that through their efforts, the society may be challenged to change their negative attitudes towards people with disabilities.

The Church needs to be challenged towards a radical commitment to empower people with disabilities . . . includes changing attitude, infrastructure and appreciating the pottential of people with disabilities said Nyomi. The AACC pledged to back up the work of EDAN in Africa and globally and promote the WCC's efforts mainstreaming disability issues within the church programme.

5. Message from Dr. William Temu WCC Africa Desk

On behalf of Aruna Gnanadason and the entire Geneva team Rev. Jeen Wined and the network members he welcomed those who have not been to Africa and wished them all a nice stay.

Everybody is disabled and those who are without any physical disability are even more disabled because they have many things that prevent them from failing to see all those who are wounded around them and share Christ with them.

The work on disability in the Justice Peace and Creation team is very much appreciated by the WCC. There is also a need for EDAN consultant to challenge the Advisory of JPC in February 2000 to recognise the person with disability in other aspects of WCC.

At the continental level the African Desk is so proud that EDAN has a home in Africa and he promised to support them in every way so as to open many eyes on the issues of disability within the ecumenical structures.

6. Message from WCC President for Africa, Agnes Abuom

In her address, Dr. Agnes Abuom, the WCC President for Africa launched the EDAN initiatve saying that "it is a milestone step in the work of people with disability with and by churches." She said that the issue of disability is a justice, peace and creation concern and that is why it is rightly located within the Justice Peace and Creation (JPC) theme of the WCC. Citing the Africa situation as a case in point, Dr. Abuom noted that the issues of disability has multifaceted aspects. Culturally, most African communities are still not liberated enough to accept people with disabilities as full human being created in the image of God. At the politically land, some constitutions are restrictive on the participation of people with disability in political life.

Despite some efforts by the churches to advocate for people with disabilities especially through the provision of schools and employment opportunities, a lot is yet to be done in regard to vocalizing and espousy theologically that people with disabilities one also created in the image of God. Dr. Abuom encouraged EDAN to carry on with its agenda so that disability issues can be pushed to the centre stage of society and specifically of ecumenical structures worldwide. (full speeches are contained in Appendix 3 of this report)

7. Message from Aruna Gnanadason

In an e-mail message sent to Nairobi ahead of the consultation, Aruna Gnanadason, the Coordinator JPC, Team stressed that the EDAN Network is a great importance to the WCC work and specifically to the Justice Peace and Creation Team. She expressed her regrets for not being able to attend or send a representative to the Nairobi Consultation due to prior arrangements made over a year before the Nairobi forum.

She reiterated the commitment of her team to EDAN and wished the network members well in their endeavour to discern what the churches should do in solidarity with people with disabilities (see full speech on Appendix 3).


1. Background of WCC Work on Disabilities


Mr. Samuel Kabue, WCC Consultant on Disabilities assisted by Ye Ja Lee facilitated a participatory session on the WCC initiatives around disability concerns and the challenges encountered. Ye Ja Lee, who served as WCC Consultant for Differently Abled for two and a half years, shared her experience at the Desk and emphasized that despite funding difficulties, this disability work in the WCC is firmly commited to seeing the WCC's position a disability issue is now much more clearly defined. however, the issue of inclusivity remains unsettled especially in regard to staffing representation by people with disabilities at WCC.

Furthermore, most churches have not yet taken the issues of disabilities as seriously as they should and this can at times undermine the participation of people with disabilities. Some of the critical areas that WCC and Churches need to address in dealing with disability issues include:-

  • Prevention

  • Accessibility

  • Preparedness in service

  • Inclusiveness in all levels of the church and society.

2. Terminologies


It was noted that the WCC has been very instrumental in the development of ‘appropriate' terminologies for people with disabilities. After lengthy deliberations on various terms used in reference to disability, the network members resolved to adopt the terminology: "People with disabilities." This terminology used in all EDAN communication and recommended for adoption by the WCC and other ecumenical structures. Concern was expressed over the non-representation by some disabilities in the Nairobi forum such as those with heavy impairments and the mentally challenged. It was however strongly felt that the above terminology was all embrasive effort.

However, it was agreed that deliberate efforts be put in place to search for representatives of these disabled categories for inclusion in the network. This is important because the network is asking the WCC and Churches to embrace fully the concepts of inclusivity and the same should happen with the network also.

3. Sharing recommendations of various WCC consultations on disability

This session was devoted to reading through summaries of various WCC consultations on disabilities since 1971. The aim of the session was to familiarize participants with the various issues raised in WCC disability fora so as to inform the eventual formulation of the mission statement for EDAN. Some of the reports shared during this process included the following:-

  • Report to the Assembly Hearing - Programme Unit 1 - Unity and Renewal - Long participation towards inclusive community - The Programme on People with Disabilities 1971-1998.

  • Work of Consultants Office under Linda Katsuno (1980).

  • Recruiting of Consultants (1994)

  • Commission of Faith and Order - Louvain, Belgium

Having critically, openly and honestly discussed the above recommendations, the participants resolved the following in regard to the mission, purpose and goal of the Network.

1. Mission

To support the work of individuals, Churches and non-church organisations concerned with the issues affecting disabled people globally.

2. Purpose
To advocate for a just and inclusive community by bringing in the Network of people with disabilities as a distinctive ecumenical contribution to new models of being a church.

3. Goal
To maintain an active Network of people with disabilities and to improve their situation by providing the space for their contributions and gifts to the ecumenical movement and the churches.


The aim of this process was to harmonize the network objectives as they were set out in Harare along with WCC mission and expectations. At the end of the exercise, the participants were expected to develop a synthesis that would reasonably reflect the harmonized versions of the objectives that EDAN should pursue. Various documents were discussed including the original network objectives and WCC mission and expectations.

After lengthy deliberations through plenary and small groups, the network members resolved to pursue the following objectives.


This session was facilitated by Rev. Dr. Gordon Cowans who guided participants into sharing their personal experiences of God and their views towards disability issues.

In addition the participants went into two small groups to deliberate further on two specific themes that emerged from the previous sharing, that is, creation and salvation.

A synthese of these explorations yielded in the formulation of the following theological statement: "We believe that all people without disabilities are created in the image of God and are called to an inclusive community in which they are empowered to use their gifts. This inclusive community of all the people of God are holy in Christ irrespective of the physical state of their bodies and level of psychological functioning. Through the Holy Spirit, this inlcusive community is called to repentance, transformation and renewal (Genesis 1:27 and 2 Corinthians 5:17).

In respect to the above statement, the Network resolved that:

  • Defining Working Structures

The participants were taken through a series of talks on the WCC including organizational structure to facilitate a discussion on the most appropriate relationship structures needed between the WCC and EDAN. Mr. Samuel Kabue, Rev. Arne Fritszon and Rev. Kathy Reeves moderated the session with assistance from other network members who sit in various committees of the WCC. The discussion focussed on such issues as the general organisational structure. Working committees and office administration as well as administrative matters specific to EDAN. Network members expressed concern over the absence of a representative from Geneva who could otherwise have helped with this session, but appreciated the difficulties already expressed by Aruna in her e-mail message to the consultation.

After lengthy discussions, the network members agreed on the following:

  • Role and position of EDAN within WCC

Whereas Ecumenical Disability Advocates Network (EDAN) has been established in 1998 out of the interest and commitment of disability advisors to the 8th Assembly of the WCC held in Harare, and whereas its establishment and development has been endorsed by the WCC Central Committee to be an effective conduit for advancing the concerns of disabled people,

EDAN recommends that the WCC Central Committee recognizes EDAN as the permanent advisory working group within the Justice Peace and Creation Commission accompanying the WCC leadership in the issues relating to people with disabilities in the world.

  • Role and position of WCC Part-time Consultant on Disabilities

Acknowledging the commitment and the willingness of the WCC to further the work of people with disabilities and determined to carry on with these efforts and steer the work into the future, the Network urges the WCC to provide a documentation for the part-time consultant on disabilities and that this office be recognized as a staff responsibility in every respect. Further, we suggest that another advisor be consequently nominated to the Central Committee to take up the position of Samuel Kabue who has since become a part-time staff of the WCC.

  • Inclusiveness

Whereas people with disabilities have been glossily under-represented in the working Committees and Commissions of the WCC, and whereas these experiences are perhaps reflective of limited awareness of many church leaders to the critical nature of the concerns of people with disabilities; and whereas the commitment of WCC leadership to redress this unacceptable situation has been vividly expressed in recent times; be it resolved that EDAN recommends that:

  1. WCC urgently resubmits the names of people with disabilities to relevant member churches and to EDAN for full membership on commissions and working groups, and

  1. The Nominations Committee of the WCC, Central Committee takes steps to improve the level of disability representation at all levels in WCC including, providing advisor and/or observer status to people with disabilities.

  • EDAN Operational Structures

Whereas EDAN has been formally established with its offices in Nairobi, Kenya and whereas this network affirms its commitment to a creative structure and mode of operation, and whereas to date, EDAN membership has not included participants or representatives from the Middle East, Pacific, Orthodox communities and some disabilities such as those with hearing impairments and the mentally challenged,

Be it resolved that EDAN's membership be expanded to include all regions, at least one Orthodox participant and any disability as identified by EDAN; Be it further resolved that regional co-ordinators be renamed in respect of each region as delineated in WCC operations;

Be it further resolved that a flexible three-member working group be established in support of the Secretary/Coordinator, and to be named by him, in the effort to advance the work of people with disabilities.

  • EDAN Coordination

- Europe : Pal Gado

- Africa : Abraham Adu Berinyuu

- North America : Kathy Reeves

- Caribbean : Gordon Cowans

- Latin America : Noel Fernandez

- Asia Pacific (Interim) : Ye Ja Lee

- Asia : Ying-Bo Joseph Tsai

  • Future of EDAN

Recognizing the significance of the WCC ecumenical structures in the furtherance of the disability agenda and determined to actively play our advisory role in promoting the disability concerns. Further, recognizing the need to grow into an inclusive network, consultation resolves to be meeting at least once prior to the JPC Commission so as to share EDAN's resolutions for onward transmission to the Central Committee. Further, it is resolved that a wider network be established to include regional networks to be coordinated by individual members of EDAN in each particular region. We further resolve to hold regional meetings which will also incorporate EDAN meetings and that the first consultation be held in Africa in the year 2000 and that the second consultation to be held to cover Latin America and Caribbean. A pre-assembly consultation will also be held in a region to be determined.

  • Developing a Three Year Strategic Plan for EDAN

1 Strategic Issues

The following were identified as the priority. The participants identified the following as some of the strategic issues that EDAN should be address the first EDAN strategic plan.

    • Accessibility
      It was noted that a lot still needs to be done to make facilities including churches, accessible to people with disabilities. A lot of education and advocacy efforts are required in this regard.

    • Service Provision
      Concern was expressed over the existing disparities between different countries in regard to service provision for persons with disabilities. Efforts to redress this need to consider such disparities with respect to gender, geographical locations, racial, culture and other disparities.

    • Rights as opposed to charity
      Traditionally, most suicides view people with disabilities as recipients of charity. These attitudes are prevalent among individuals, institutions and even ecclesiatical structures. EDAN needs to reverse this by addressing the issue for a purely human rights perspective and so safeguard the rights of people with disabilities as opposed to the present tred that emphasises on "Charity."

    • Inclusion and participation
      Participants lamented that todate people with disabilities are still largely excluded for mainstream thus hindering their full participation. Some cases to this include the exclusion of people with disabilities in the leadership of the church and society, exclusion of disability issues in curricula for theological schools, and other idiological, sociological and theological indicators. There is great need to promote and teach that people with disabilities can participate wholly in the entire life of the church and society.

    • Laws and Legislation
      There is a need to advocate for the formulation of disability friedly policies and legistration. Network members and their respective regional structures need to be empowered and facilitated to carry on with this role in different countries as needs and opportunities arise. Uganda, Kenya, USA were cited as some cases where Councils of Churches, Churces or People with disabilities had significal input in influencing disability friedly policies. Network members were encouraged to continue sharing their experiences in this regard with the EDAN secretariat for publicity and to also serve as examples for other people presented with similar opportunities.

    • From Charisma to Institutionalization - Consolidating the Network
      To strengthen the institutional capacity of EDAN, it was deemed suitable to establish regional networks covering all regions. The primary task of the Regional representatives is to chaplain the disability agenda in their specific regions. Currently, the following Coordinators have already been selected:-
      - Europe : Pal Gado
      - Africa : Abraham Adu Berinyuu
      - North America : Kathy Reeves
      - Caribbean : Gordon Cowans
      - Latin America : Noel Fernandez
      - Asia Pacific (Interim) : Ye Ja Lee
      - Asia : Ying-Bo Joseph Tsai

    • Other strategic issues will resolve around such issues as:

      Awareness creation
      Advocacy for inclusiveness
      Counselling services
      Family support
      Establishment of relationships with people of other faiths
      Consolidation of regional networks. 

      Awareness raising on disability concerns 

      - Access - this includes physical, information, communication and ideology.
      - Prevention of occurrence of disability for reasons such as wars, land mines, breakdown of peace and other health hazards and life style 
      - Need for improvement in service provision to persons with disabilities considering gender, regional/geographical, race and cultures.
      - The question of rights as opposed to charity-liaise with human rights section of the WCC.
      - Inclusion and participation in all aspect of the churches' and society's life
      - Laws and legislation - advocacy work and pressurizing relevant authorities depending on different areas.
      - Theological reflections on disability concerns
      - Education, rehabilitation (CBR), employment and independent living. This should include the call for churches' and ecumenical organizations to be more pro-active in these fields.
      - Formation of regional networks - mainly to provide exchange of information and sharing of experiences
      - Counselling services - with emphasis on pastoral counselling.
      - Representation in WCC governing organs as well as in other national and regional ecumenical bodies.
      - Continuation of disability work in WCC
      - Family support
      - Advocacy for inclusiveness
      - Statistics of persons with disabilities in churches' and in general society
      - Establishment of working relations with the Catholic Church and other faiths in disability field.
      - Support of and for families with disabilities.
      - Women with disabilities.

The Core team was moderated to draw up a comprehensive strategic plan and an accompanying budget around priority issues among those already identified. This group will also be meeting before every Central Committee to work on the EDAN report and recommendations for onward transmission.

In addition, regional and international consultations will be held tri-annually and before every General Assembly respectively. The first regional meeting which will also bring the network members together will be held in Africa possibly in the year 2000 or early 2001.

The second consultation will be held jointly in by the Caribbean and the Latin America region. The Regional Coordinators will be expected to facilitate EDAN meetings in their respective regions in addition to:-

  • Furthering the EDAN objectives

  • Creating awareness of EDAN

  • Fundraising (in consultation with the Core team)

  • Serve as the contact persons for the network

  • Facilitate the formation of national networks

  • Establish and maintain relationships

It was further agreed that there is a need to have the Regional Coordinators formally introduced to their National Council of Churches, their respective conferences and to the WCC. A letter to this end world be drafted for onward transmission. Additionally, the network members resolved to invite Abraham Berinyuu, Razaka and Michelin into the network, a proposal that the three accepted.

It was further resolved that the EDAN newsletter continues as the main channel of communication for the Network. The three memers of the Core-team were appointed as the EDAN Editorial Committee and were moderated to work out a comprehensive policy for the EDAN Newsletter.

EDAN is envisaged to remain small and large simultaneously. The network will continue as a small group with administrative links with the WCC at the same time remain flexible enough so that it can grow into a big international organ probably called ‘EDAN International." It was recommended that EDAN therefore becomes the advisory board of WCC on disability just like the women, youth and indigenous peoples. In this capacity, EDAN would therefore be responsible for implementing the activities of the WCC on disabilities but would retain some degree of independence to enable the network tap resources from all available avenue including those outside of the WCC. In this regard, the Nairobi forum resolved:-

Whereas Ecumenical Disability Advocates Network (EDAN) has been established in 1998 out of the interest and commitment of disability advisors to the 8th Assembly of the WCC held in Harare, and whereas its establishment and development has been endorsed by the WCC Central Committee to be an effective conduit for advancing the concerns of disabled people,

Be it resolved that EDAN recommends that the WCC Central Committee recognizes EDAN as the permanent advisory working group within the Justice Peace and Creation Commission accompanying the WCC leadership in the issues relating to people with disabilities in the world.


A series of visits were organized to give the participants an opportunity to experience Kenya. These include a visit to the National Museum, Great Rift Valley, Nairobi City and the Nairobi Game Park. In addition, participants were exposed to various efforts for and by People with Disabilities in Kenya through visits by Heads of organizations of people with disabilities. The EDAN consultation also coincided with the UN Day of the Disabled. The Network members had an opportunity to celebrate the day with their Kenyan counterparts and were given an opportunity to share about EDAN. Rev. Arne Fritzon spoke on behalf of the Network members while Samuel Kabue addressed the celebrations in his capacity as the Chairman, United Disabled Persons of Kenya (UDPK).


The closing ceremony was addressed by Hon. Josephine Sinyo a nominated Member of Parliament in Kenya and who is also visually handicapped. In her address, she launched the EDAN initiative and urged the members to do everything they can to keep its fire glowing. "It is a much needed advocacy group" she said adding that time is ripe for people with disabilities to take up their own cross as it were as nobody else will do it better. She concluded by saying that disability issues are now beginning to gain popularity and there is no turning back. She urged Churches and society in general to redress their enroneous perceptions and attitudes to the disabled and give them the space they need to participate fully in the life of the church or society as God intended.

The consultation was formally closed at mid-day on 8th December, 1999.

"To God be the Glory."




Rev. Jesee Kamau, Moderator Presbyterian Church of East Africa

Rev. Mutava Musyimi, General Secretary, National Council of Churches of Kenya

Rev. Setri Nyomi

Dr. Temu

Dr. Agnes Abuom, WCC Africa President.