- Ms Susan Stork-Finlay, Occupational therapist and disability spirituality consultant. Currently an appointed member of the Victorian Equal Opportunity Human Rights Commission Disability Reference Group.
Accepting Us As We Are: Disability, Impairment and Illness Within Faith Communities and Societies.
Many people with disabilities want to be accepted as they are, not made to be ‘perfect’ in the eyes of able bodied people. One in five Australians report living with a disability. In some faith communities and cultures, even in modern society, there is still shame and hiding of some people living with impairments and fear that their impairments and illnesses are caused by sin or evil. – How can we overcome this shame to acceptance in our cultures and faith communities? Acquiring impairment and illness can be a process of grief for an individual, family, friends and their community. Finally getting a diagnosis can also be a relief as answers and pathways are found. Offering hope for cure or healing to a ‘perfect able’ body is not always helpful. How can we provide appropriate pastoral care through all stages? Thus, many people with disabilities and chronic illness do not feel they can belong or feel part of their faith communities. This discussion will include modern texts and examples from different faith perspectives. How as people with disabilities and illness can we feel accepted as we are in faith communities? How can faith communities accept and support people with impairments and illnesses?