As we have wrapped up Thanksgiving and now fully embrace the rapidly approaching celebration of the birth of Christ, let us pause today, on this December 3, and acknowledge International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD). First implemented by the UN in 1992, IDPD is intended to be a day for growing awareness of issues on disability that affect our local and global community. Today is a special day set aside to begin a conversation alongside and on behalf of the estimated 785 million people living with disability.
As you go about your day today, here are just a few quick facts from the United Nations and a few other resources about the status of people with disabilities all over the world:
• People with disabilities make up 20% of the poorest of the poor.
• Only an estimated 5-10% of children, youth, and adults with disabilities are reached for Christ, making this one of the largest unreached groups of people among every race and culture.
• The global literacy rate for adults with disabilities is 2 – 3% (1% for women).
• Many people with disabilities are forced to beg as a means for survival. About 80% of employable-age adults do not work.
• Children with disabilities have less opportunity to attend school than non-disabled children. For example in Indonesia a child with a disability is 60% less likely to attend school than a child without a disability.
• Girls and women with disabilities are three times more likely to be victims of physical violence and sexual abuse. One group of researchers reports that 90% of individuals with intellectual disabilities will experience sexual abuse at some point in their lives.
• People with disabilities have less access to health care due to accessibility and social stigma in society.
• It’s estimated in the U.S. 90% of unborn children who are discovered with Down Syndrome are aborted.
• In the developing world there is still a predominant belief that disabilities are a result of being cursed by God.
Prior to celebrating Thanksgiving almost two weeks ago, Women of Hope International staff launched a Luke 14 Feast campaign referencing the passage in scripture where Jesus calls people to go out into the streets and find people with disabilities to invite them to a banquet. Women of Hope asked people to remember women with disabilities and symbolically invite them to their Thanksgiving feast.
Rev. Steve Bundy, Vice President of the Christian Institute on Disability refers to this passage as the Luke 14 Mandate for the global church. He writes: “People with disabilities were viewed as cursed, outside of the mainstream, marginalized and segregated. Jesus took these religious and cultural views and turned them on their head. He challenged barriers and revealed the heart of God…the heart of the King himself. Indeed, people with disabilities are central to the Kingdom of God.”
Rev. Bundy views Luke 14 as a mandate for the church to actively seek inclusion and tap into this underutilized people group in order to fully embrace the diversity of the Body of Christ. This year the IDPD theme is removing barriers to create an inclusive and accessible society for all. How do we call people with disabilities to the table and discuss what this looks like in our communities? One way might be to share this blog post with those around you.