This month, Livability is taking part in ‘Living Fully’ – a conference celebrating the lives of disabled people, culture and faith. Held in Rome, the event is being co-patroned by the Catholic Pontifical Council for Culture.
Living Fully – running from the 23rd to 26th June 2016 – will bring a range of delegates and speakers together to explore the strengths, experiences and needs disabled people bring to the church.
A community focused event, the conference will facilitate discussion and learning amongst disabled people, families, campaigners and theologians together.
The event will be three conferences in one: an academic symposium for theologians, a conference for families and practitioners to share their stories, and a creative stream for people with intellectual disabilities.
The aim is to explore how the lives of disabled people can be celebrated and recognised within a culture of belonging. Sessions will focus on creating space for stories to be celebrated and shared and positively shifting attitudes, to eradicate a culture of exclusion. The aim is to create a network of people sharing ideas, insights, stories and research.
The event is organised by disability campaigner Cristina Gangemi. Cristina works for Livability in engaging the voice and experiences of the people we support and is also the Director of the Kairos Forum.
On sharing the aims of the conference, Cristina Gangemi said:
“Disabled people face all kinds of barriers that prevent them from accessing so many parts of life. Disabled people rarely have the opportunity to tell the stories of their lives. They are often either ignored, silenced, or someone speaks for them. It’s tragic that still this is true of churches; places where everyone should be welcomed and valued. This conference brings disabled people together with theologians and church leaders from around the world to discuss how disabled people can take their place in the heart of the local church. Together we will learn from each other, sharing best practice, as well as encouragement.”
During the event, Livability will be drawing from ground breaking work it has done over the years to build awareness for disability in the UK church. Livability’s ‘Churches Inc’ charter and ‘Everybody Welcome’ training helps churches become more welcoming and inclusive. Attendees will be invited to sign the Livability charter and take that back to their church communities. An academic statement will also be put on the website of the Pontifical Council for Culture.
[x_blockquote cite=”Mat Ray, Livability’s Head of Church Partnerships” type=”left”]”Our prayer is that Christians from different backgrounds, denominations and nationalities will catch a vision for a church where everyone is valued and everyone belongs.”[/x_blockquote]
Mat Ray, Livability’s Head of Church Partnerships said:
“Making the community more inclusive and livable for the people we support is essential to Livability. Churches have a massive role in helping that happen in their locality and we hope that the conference will make a real impact on the Catholic church and beyond. Our prayer is that Christians from different backgrounds, denominations and nationalities will catch a vision for a church where everyone is valued and everyone belongs.”
The event has received endorsements from disabled people, families and prominent theologians, including Professor Stanley Hauerwas and Roy McCloughery who will speak at the event.
Most Reverend John J. Myers, Archbishop of Newark, USA: “Central to Catholic teaching is this: each person is created by God and, therefore, part of one human family. Through initiatives such as Living Fully 2016, we as Church will continue to welcome those who may in the past have been marginalized because of a disability. It is my hope that through the efforts of all involved in Living Fully 2016, we truly will enable all parishioners with special needs to enjoy more active participation in our life of Faith, our liturgies and traditions. Every person is a gift to our entire community.”
Bill Gaventa, Coordinator, Summer Institute of Theology and Disability, USA: “The uniqueness of the Living Fully Conference is that it is not a conference about them but rather with people with disabilities and their families and about all of us together.”
Prof Hans S. Reinders, Professor of Ethics, The Netherlands: “In celebrating life in fullness families with children with a disability may expect the support of their churches and faith communities. The tradition of Christian theology has often failed to empower its people in this respect, however. Theologians who are trying to change this have learned that the way to succeed is by listening to people’s experience. Living Fully 2016 will provide them with an important opportunity to exercise their skills of listening well, and then reflect on what they have learned.”
Dr Mary Beth Walsh, Theologian, United States of America: “As the mother of a teenager with autism, I look forward to the Living Fully 2016 Conference with great hope and anticipation. Church has been the one place that Ben has always been fully included with his peers. I look forward to bringing Ben to Rome, and sharing his story.”
Dr Zachariah Duke, Lecturer in Theology, The Broken Bay Institute, Australia: “Living Fully 2016 will empower people from around the world to make a positive difference in their local parishes and congregations. It will be a safe place for people to meet, share stories, have fun and learn.”
Prof Stanley Hauerwas, Gilbert T. Rowe Professor of Theological Ethics, Duke Divinity School, United States of America: “An important conference for anyone.”
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