[Anglican Communion News Service] An Anglican priest in Egypt has said that, far from being a divine punishment, deafness has brought children closer to the Kingdom of God.
In an interview with ACNS the Revd Faraj Hanna, Priest-in-Charge of the Church for the Deaf in Egypt said the church’s Deaf Unit has provided a place where children of all kinds can fellowship together.
“Through the deaf unit we can reach the unreached children from all over Egypt and it’s a good opportunity for children from all faiths to be together,” he said. “We are looking for a fruitful future where everyone can live in peace and where the deaf children can reach the university level of education.”
The Deaf Unit, which currently has over 70 children, targets children and adults who cannot find or afford services in Egypt and aims to provide them with new opportunities both economically and socially.
“Deaf children come and stay with us and in this way we can involve them with the church programmes,” said Mr Hanna. “We also make sure to meet up with parents of the children twice a week so that they can also learn sign language to ease communication within the family.
“We are working hard to change how the parents of the deaf children treat their children since some still believe deafness is a punishment from god.”
The Church in Egypt has been operating the Deaf Unit since 1982 and since then it has branched out to include teacher training programs, the Deaf Club, two new community-based rehabilitation programs in Upper Egypt and the beginnings of an audiology clinic.
Last month, the children met the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and his wife Caroline when they visited the North African country. The children led morning prayers at All Saint’s Cathedral in sign language before presenting the Archbishop and Mrs Welby with a handmade wooden pyramid.
The Church in Egypt has given the deaf children and youths an opportunity to play a significant role in the life of the Church. In May this year, the Primate of The Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East, Bishop Mouneer Hanna Anis confirmed ten youths, nine of them deaf, into the church family at the Church for the Deaf.
This was after a three-month catechetical class where they studied the Bible and Anglican theology and made a public declaration of faith and commitment to the Anglican Church.
“We are so excited as these ten youth, along with those confirmed over the last three years, are an indication of how the church is growing,” said Mr Hanna. “All of the youth have a great vision for the future. Not only are they active in the church services, but they are all participants in the Bible Translation project, the Deaf Club and have stepped up to organise outings for the Deaf Church.”
The Church in Egypt has also embarked on a project to translate the Bible into sign language in order to minister effectively to the deaf community. “The deaf community must have the gospel through their own language which is sign language,” he said.
One of the main goals of the Deaf Unit is to provide students and deaf adults with the opportunity to interact not only with other deaf people but also with the hearing.
The Church in Egypt has since partnered with some schools, the government, and others connected with the diocese to help the deaf children better integrate into society by overcoming stereotypes.