By Abed Zien El Dien

From my childhood I can remember my father sitting too close to the TV screen or asking me or my sister to read for him, since he was diagnosed with Stargardt, a rare genetic eye disease that has no cure. People with disabilities are all around us. A friend of mine conducted a poll with a group of Christians regarding whether they have a close relationship with someone with a disability, and 65 percent said that they did. Throughout my experience of following Jesus, I cannot recall that my church has discussed the topic of disability or that my theological training even alluded to the subject. Then again, some educational institutions in Lebanon seem to be more aware of such a reality. For example, SKILD is a specialist educational center committed to providing tailored help for children with special needs, community awareness, and a transformational approach to families, children, adolescents, and professionals dealing with learning issues.

Recently, I was diagnosed with a mild anxiety disorder, and I have become more interested in the topic. It also struck a chord when a mentor and friend of mine shared about his own experience with disability. Allow me to share some thoughts and perhaps introduce a topic that I believe needs to be discussed in our churches and communities.    

According to Merriam-Webster, disability is “a physical, mental, cognitive, or developmental condition that impairs, interferes with, or limits a person’s ability to engage in certain tasks or actions or participate in typical daily activities and interactions.” Disability often leads to vulnerability and even marginalization when people with disability are measured against some level of standard performance. Sometimes disability leads to a degree of social exclusion, while at other times it does not. For example, if you had dyslexia 800 years ago, that impairment most likely would not lead to exclusion since most people were illiterate. Disability has the potential to impact a person’s sense of worth and competence.