Somewhere in our past, we have all been a victim of discrimination. Maybe classmates teased you at school; maybe you were treated unfairly because of the colour of your skin or perhaps someone judged you because of your cultural background? Whatever the case may be, it is awful feeling rejected and inferior because of any form of stereotype. Knowing how hurtful discrimination may be, is it not strange that we make ourselves guilty of the same destructive behaviour towards others?
During November, Christian Literature Fund wants to focus on a particular group of people that are often discriminated against – people with disabilities. It coincides with National Disability Rights Awareness Month that is commemorated from 3 November to 3 December (http://bit.ly/2eqrPTu). This initiative allows South Africans to reflect on and help address the common challenges facing persons with disabilities. I recently attended a youth event at our church where a person with a disability gave the following testimony:
Alwyn was a star athlete with a dream of one day playing rugby for his province and for the springboks. On 13 December, whilst driving to a friend’s house near Kirkwood, he lost control of his vehicle and was flung out on the passenger side. “When I awoke, I knew something was seriously wrong. I couldn’t move my legs and my lower body felt cold and dead.” Lying in hospital he felt as though his life was over and that he had nothing left to give. “That dreadful moment, realizing I was paralysed from the waist down, made me recognize how much I needed the Lord and how fragile we all are.”
With the encouragement of friends and family and his renewed commitment towards God, Alwyn began the difficult journey of trying to rebuild his life. All the things he took for granted, like going to the shopping mall or driving a car, now seemed like an overwhelming obstacle. It was a struggle not to become discouraged, but to keep pushing forward.
During the next 18 months Alwyn learnt that the Lord can even use the dark moments in our lives to create something good. “Initially I only took up sport again as a means of helping my body to recover. But, before I knew it I was participating in events such as rowing – and to my surprise I started doing very well.” It’s ironic that Alwyn has achieved even more success on the sporting field after the accident than he did before. “Most importantly, I’ve grown personally, so much that I barely recognize the old me!” Alwyn now dreams of representing South Africa at the next Paralympic games in Tokyo, Japan.
Despite his success Alwyn still has to deal with the stigma of being a person with a disability. “Because I’m bound to a wheelchair people sometimes feel awkward in my presence. I don’t want people to feel sorry for me, or to treat me differently. Just act the same towards me as you would towards any other person.” Alwyn also prefers to think of himself as someone that is differently-abled and not someone who is disabled. “I can do everything I use to do before the accident, and even more! I just do it differently.”
“Here I thought that being put in a wheelchair would limit my life. It has done the exact opposite.”
As Christians we should not define the dignity of people based on their ability, appearance nor any other worldly criteria. Everyone we meet is worthy – not because of what they have done or who they are, but because God created them and loves them dearly.
What are we doing to include the vulnerable and excluded members of our society? Read more about becoming a disability-friendly church by ordering this free pamphlet: http://bit.ly/2dVaXkE. Maybe you are someone with a disability struggling with questions and insecurities? – Order our free pamphlet “Gestremd maar nie nutteloos nie” http://bit.ly/2eKpNcQ
In whichever way we can, let’s break down the barriers and include ALL God’s children.
Christian Literature Fund
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