AFRICA-MADAGASCARLESOTHO: Breaking down a “wall of silence”
Oblate scholastic and deacon, Brother Charles Phoofolo is one of the few recognized Sign Language Interpreters in Lesotho. Speaking about people with hearing disability, Charles states that “there exists a communication barrier between people with hearing disability and the rest of the Christian community. This is not because of their disability, for they do not have ‘religious disability’. Rather it is because of the purposely maintained ‘wall of silence’ between the two parties. As a result, people with hearing disability feel uncomfortable in the church.”
According to Deacon Phoofolo, “the communication barrier denies the people with hearing disability their right to active participation in the religious practices of the Church. It is an undeniable fact that our church still has much to do with regard to the accessibility of the pastoral services to people with hearing impairment.”
Deacon Phoofolo highlighted the point that “Sign Language Interpreting is prerequisite to the accommodation of people with hearing disability in the church. We have to break down the communication barrier by learning their language (sign language) and also making use of Sign Language Interpreters. Without the use of sign language in our churches, people with hearing disability will always find themselves isolated and discriminated against. And in today’s world, this is unjustifiable.”
He concludes with the following information: “According to Vatican Information Service (VIS), there are 278 million people with hearing impairment in the world; 59 million of them are profoundly deaf. The VIS further reports that 80% of the deaf live in less developed countries.” (Maoblata, April 2010)
Father Lukasz BIECEK is a member of our community. His parish is at Badgé, on the border with Cameroon. In this lost outpost, customs officials and policemen take great joy in robbing the population. Recently, the village chief, in cahoots with these uniformed bandits, sent some his thugs to rough up a man accused of witchcraft…and to rob him of his livestock.
Accusations of witchcraft are now punishable by law. They are unfounded and are a pretext for getting even, especially with those who are the weakest. The Justice and Peace committee of the parish reacted and raised a complaint. The thugs admitted that they had been sent by the chief who was then called into court… but in Cameroon, it was covered over in a few days.
The affair continues: the chief has accused Fr. Lukasz of getting involved in politics. He has threatened to poison the head of the Justice and Peace committee. Nevertheless, little by little, justice is beginning to emerge, thanks to the courage of a few. In our Christmas liturgies, when we call for the arrival of the “Kingdom of Justice and Peace,” it’s not simply tale from the past. But it takes courage to fight against fear. It is fear that enslaves. (Philippe Alin, o.m.i. in Audacieux pour l’Évangile, April 2010)