EDAN European consultation of people with a disability

10-13 October 2003
Lunteren, Netherlands

The meeting took place at Congress Hotel - De Werelt in Lunteren. This facility was very ideal as it was very accessible.

The Consultation was opened by Jan Van Buuren who is the Chair of ICIG which stands for the Interkerkelijke Commissie Integratie Gehandicapten, which came into being after the congress entitled "Looked at but not seen', organised in 1985 by the Algemeen Diaconaal Bureau (General Office for Church Welfare Work) of the Reformed Churches in The Netherlands in association with the World Council of Churches. The ICIG carried forward initiatives then begun and has since become the ecumenical advisory body offering advice and counsel over the position of people with a disability within the church. Examples of ICIG activities include the publication of pamphlets about churches and about people with a disability, information for office-holders, courses for council members and lectures for church meetings and study gatherings.

He welcomed the members to Lunteren and Invited Jan Troost who is the Chair of the Dutch Council of People with a Disability. He challenged the churches to listen to people with disabilities. When one talks about people with disabilities, they should not just concentrate on how they are suffering, but instead they should look at how people with disabilities can participate in the society. Some issues that need to be looked at in this part of the world is Eugenics especially on how this relates to the right to have a life. When a couple who are both with a disability decide to have children and the children inherit the parent's disability, is the pastor right in refusing to baptize these children?


There was a short welcome from Ineke Bakker from the Council of Churches in the Netherlands and Karen de Krijger of the Council of Churches Ede/Lunteren who brought greetings from the churches as emphasized on the call to churches to affirm persons with disabilities who in a society where limitations are seen as weaknesses, they need to be affirmed. Ineke welcomed the participants once more and as a sign of gratitude for choosing Netherlands and brought flowers. Karen informed the participants that Ede is a city in the center of Netherlands and a community of 100,000 people. Most of the churches in this region are accessible and every 5th Sunday, one of the 5 local congregation have an ecumenical worship where all the people around are invited.

There was an introduction to the sculpture exhibition of Mrs. Jani Slingerland who has a daughter who is 28 years but with a mental age of one and a half years old. She has made a sculpture exhibition to depict her love for the daughter.

Samuel Kabue of Ecumenical Disability Advocates Network from the time when it was formed in Harare till where it is now and then introduced the members of the EDAN Global team who also took a chance to greet the European participants.


The day started with a sharing from Jan van Buuren who read from Matthew 24:45-47 that "45.Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? 46. Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he commeth shall find so doing. 47. Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods.

He challenged the members to …………..


By Anne van der Meiden

Anne started off by emphasizing that Communication is a very fundamental human fact, faith fact and divine fact. He emphasized that God would be nothing without revelation which the early Christians wrote and preached. Communication generally is on the decline as a survey conducted in the Netherlands reveled that only 10% of Dutch people ever watch TV. What has all of a sudden led to the deploration of Christianity? Young people of late have less to do with the church. They ask what can I find there? What is there for me? These are the same questions asked by the persons with disabilities. The problem is not the decline of theology but rather a sociological problem. The only thing needed is renewal but not reformation.

The problems in participation of persons with disability at all levels as caused by non and miscommunication. Communications are disturbed not only by that which we term and propagate as 'normal' but also by all kinds of social inhibitions.

In communication, the question is who is he? Which context is he speaking from? Which audience is he addressing? What is the symbol?

Check the noise level that is noise analysis in the context to communication. This background noise; 'rustle factors' is what influences word, image and behavior.

That is the field of non-verbal communication This involves around the issues of Identity and Image. Identity is the unique attribute that makes a person get the sense of belonging.

Some of the different forms of identity include:

  1. Claimed Identity (What I claim to be), in depth and not everybody does the same thing.

  2. Experience Identity - which is what one undergoes and reflects on the others.

  3. Unique (Exclusive) Identity - A strong feeling to be accepted and seen normal.

  4. Allowed (granted) Identity - A room that is given to you by people or the society.

Image is what is between eyes and ears of others. The concrete experiences that people go through makes the image of what one sees. These are mostly in the form of stories and rumors that surround disabled people.

The other issue is contamination. This is where what people hear about you and they glue it to all the rest of the people in your group or the people who look like you. This challenges us on getting Communication competence on how able to communicate as whatever we communicate to the people is what people know.

How do we train ourselves to formulate what we want other people to understand about us?


Therese Pache gave greetings from Rev. Dr. Eva-Sibylle Vogel-Mfato who is the Executive Secretary for Interchurch Service and Women's Desk from the Conference of European Churches (CEC). She cited the Consultation's theme as very timely especially coming just after the WCC receiving the Interim Theological statement. CEC together with other diaconal partners has build up a European Diaconal Forum process. One of the key concepts of the Forum is not to speak about and to work for people (the victim approach), but to work with people as partners in constructing a more human, more just and sustainable church and society. And this should apply also to consultations and meetings.

It would be good to have EDAN in the diaconal network which we are in the process of building up so that we can also invite EDAN - European Network where appropriate and get into more dialogue and cooperation. Dr. Vogel-Mfato recommended his colleague Richard Fischer who is based in Strassbourg and is leading a working group on bioethics as an important link for future co-operation.


(Text to come)

For a Change

1) We encourage and promote the participation of people with disabilities in church and theology.

2) We urge the churches to change from an ethos of care for people with disabilities towards a theology of inclusion.

3) We strongly urge churches and networks to take seriously the inclusion of people with learning disabilities and members of the deaf community.

4) We accept the EDAN document ‘A Church of All and for All' and the recommendations of the Policy Reference Group II, which have been accepted by the Central Committee of the WCC, as a framework for action. A key element in this document that we underline is the affirmation "that all people are made in the image of God and that we can never be a full community or complete image without one another".

5) We commit ourselves to engage our churches to study and respond to the document ‘A Church of All and for All'.

6) We ask our churches to:

a) nominate people with disabilities to governing bodies and advisory groups at all levels, create opportunities for people with disabilities to take leadership roles and empower and build the capacity of people with disabilities to take a full part in the life of the church,

b) make churches and church buildings and websites accessible,

c) develop an inclusive and accessible theology, education, language and liturgy,

d) challenge the assumption that disability and sin are correlated,

e) promote disability issues in church based development work, especially in the area of violence,

f) commit enough funding and resources to advance the course of disability.

7) We commit ourselves to participate in the European network that is a part of EDAN and urge our churches to fund this work as a special project in the WCC programme. We are aware of the fact that EDAN urgently needs additional funding.

8) Arne Fritszon from Sweden and Simone Poortman from the Netherlands will coördinate the building up of the European network and in 2004 will pay special attention to ensuring the representation of the churches in those countries that are not yet represented, as well as building alliances with non-church organisations.

9) ICIG accepts the invitation of the Dutch National Council of Churches by drs. Ineke Bakker to introduce and discuss in its plenary meeting the document and recommendations ‘A Church of All and for All' as well as the findings of the conference For a Change.

10) We welcome the interest in and support of EDAN by CEC and accept the invitation from rev.dr. Eva-Sibylle Vogel-Mfato and Thérèse Pache to discuss how disability issues can become central to the work of the CEC member churches and how EDAN can become involved in the European Diaconal Forum Process.

We are the participants of the European consultation ‘For a Change' in Lunteren,10-13th October 2003. We are members of churches and most of us are people with disabilities. Others are family- or professional care givers. Some of us are members of EDAN or ICIG.

This statement is addressed to the churches at all levels, to church based commissions and development agencies. that work with people with disabilities, and to theologians and theological institutions and faculties. We will also share the results of the conference with (organisations of) people with disabilites.

The consultation For a Change was organised in October 2003 by the Ecumenical Disability Advocates Network (EDAN) together with the Interchurch Commission of People with Disabilities in the Netherlands (ICIG) and with the support of Kerkinactie.

Rev. J. Van Buuren, ICIG, P.O Box 334, 3900 AH Veenendaal, Netherlands

Samuel N. Kabue, EDAN, P.O. Box 22, 00300 Ronald Ngala, Kenya