As part of her activities under the Networking to Stop Violence Against Women and Girls with Disabilities Project, Disability Rights Advocacy Center (DRAC) made an impactful presentation at the National Executive Council meeting of the Christian Association of Nigeria calling for the support of religious leaders in the disability inclusion agenda.
The presentation, which was delivered by DRAC’s Executive Director, Dr. Irene Patrick-Ogbogu, was centered on drawing attention of religious leaders to the faith-based policies and practices that perpetuate discrimination against persons with disabilities.
She also highlighted the important role they play as change agents seeing that most persons with disabilities cite their religious leaders as their first line of defense if/when they are abused or maltreated.
She decried the attitude of some churches who view persons with disabilities as poster persons for healing and/or deliverance.
Dr. Irene called on the church bloc leaders to help sensitize their various denominations and congregations alike to see and treat persons with disabilities as equals while removing all barriers to their inclusion.
The Executive Director prevailed on the CAN leadership to use their influence as the apex Christian body to advocate for a disability law for the protection of the rights of Nigerians with disabilities.
In the same vein, Dr. Toyin Aderemi, Country Representative of Christoffel Blinden Mission added her voice to get support from Christian leaders. She highlighted the need for wheelchair accessible entrances, accessible toilets, and sign language interpreters in places of worship to enhance the participation of persons with disabilities in religious settings.
DRAC also presented her latest publication, ‘A Religious Leader’s Guide to Disability Inclusion’, a booklet with easy to read information about disability and ways to ensure inclusion of persons with disabilities in religious settings.
The CAN President, Dr. Samson Ayokunle while responding, appreciated DRAC for taking up the noble cause to stand in the gap for persons with disabilities. He said that as the President of The Nigeria Baptist Convention, NBC, he made it known to pastors under him that he will not dedicate any place of worship which is not accessible to persons with disabilities. He further enjoined Christian leaders to create disability friendly environment to allow for the effective participation of persons with disabilities in religious gatherings.
Dr. Ayokunle called for discussion from the presentation where clerics aired their views as it concerns their involvement with persons with disabilities.
Rev. Dr. Fubara Manuel, National President of Christian Council of Nigeria, CCN, also called for a paradigm shift in the way persons with disabilities are treated in places of worship.
He pledged his unwavering support to DRAC in achieving her desired goals.
A committee was set up to work with DRAC to look into the matter of persons with disabilities and report to the national executive committee.
The Networking to Stop Violence Against Women and Girls with Disabilities Project is funded by Christoffel Blinden Mission and implemented by Disability Rights Advocacy Center and Project Alert in FCT and Lagos State respectively.