MUNA ABU GHAZALEH from Jordan was born with various disabilities that meant she would struggle to ever talk, walk or live an independent life. But she is now an expert in the theology of inclusion, and in this episode she is sharing her story and expertise with us. Listen to the episode here, or scroll down to read the highlights below.
From the moment Muna was born, her church made it very clear that she and her family were not alone. She says, ‘We saw the church welcoming and embracing me. They were really supportive. Not only to me but to the whole family. They didn’t define me by my disability; they looked at me as a person.’
Through growing up being loved, and mixing with others, she was able to focus more on her ability than her disability. Muna began to develop, grow and do things that the doctors said she would never do.
Muna is currently a Communications Officer for Tearfund and an expert in the theology of inclusion. Her Masters Dissertation from the University of Manchester, UK, is about the inclusion of people with physical and intellectual disabilities in the Jordanian church.
‘I define inclusion as embracing our differences and welcoming people. I always reflect on the Bible saying we are different parts of the body but one body (1 Corinthians 12:12-27), and that means we cannot function in church or community without each other. So it is about accepting and embracing that we are different. And that is the thing of hospitality and welcoming. No matter where you are coming from and your background, still you are welcomed and accepted.’
The Jordanian church is currently supporting many refugees from other countries in the region. Muna says, ‘The church treats people with value and dignity and, with time, we become more like friends.’
Supporting people with disabilities
‘Start by being present and listen carefully to the words they are saying,’ says Muna. ‘Do not be afraid to ask what their needs are.
‘Ask before you offer help. For example, if people see someone in a wheelchair, they think it is fine to go and help them directly by pushing the wheelchair etc. However, some wheelchair users wouldn’t like that because they are feeling that you are not valuing them, because some of them can move independently and have found a way to live with their disability.
‘It is important to learn how to respond to people with disabilities - there is a lot of information online. Try to read more about their needs.
‘Start always with friendship and acceptance. Even if you don’t see the impact immediately, be there and offer support.’
Listen to more stories from our How To Build Community show here.