International (MNN) — The International Week of the Deaf (IWD) may seem like another irrelevant holiday that some government body established.
But, for 70 million Deaf people, it’s so much more than that.
IWD is a symbol of hope for the global Deaf community. It’s the hope of increased Deaf awareness among their hearing counterparts. It’s the hope of finally being acknowledged as something more than “Other” or “Disabled.”
And, as DOOR International’s Rob Myers shares, it’s a step toward restoring dignity for people like Amit.
When he was young, Amit was influenced by the faith of his parents and decided to attend church with them. It was a “hearing” church, and Amit’s parents interpreted the service for him so he could understand what was going on.
“As he was signing with his family, the pastor took note of that signing and ended up coming over after the service and talking to the family,” shares Myers.
“The pastor’s question to the parents, which the parents passed on to Amit, was, ‘Why are you using monkey language with your son?’”
It may seem like an odd question, but as Myers explains, “Many people may label sign language as ‘monkey language’ simply because they associate [it] with some of the communication aspects that are being taught to gorillas and chimpanzees.”
Koko the gorilla is a famous example. In 1972, Dr. Penny Patterson began teaching Koko American Sign Language (ASL); today, the gorilla knows over 1,000 signs.
Scientists have even termed Koko’s modifications of ASL as “Gorilla Sign Language (GSL)” and are studying the linguistic components of GSL. As explained here, scientists like Patterson give gorillas’ natural “gesturing” the same communication authority as sign language.
Deaf people are often put on the same level as monkeys because “gesturing” and sign language are thought to be the same thing. This leads to comments like the pastor’s about “monkey language.”
“Amit was really turned off to any involvement in the Christian church because of that comment,” says Myers.
Thankfully, Amit’s story has a happy ending. Read about it here.
How you can help on IWD
Unfortunately, many Deaf people have a story like Amit’s. The IWD seeks to replace ignorance with information by raising Deaf awareness.
As explained here, “The International Week of the Deaf is the only week in a year that sees highly concerted global advocacy to raise awareness about the Deaf community at the individual, community, and governmental level.”
During IWD, DOOR International is asking for your help to raise Deaf awareness in the Body of Christ.
“For the most part, the Church is very unaware of the needs of the Deaf community [and] the fact that the Deaf community is an unreached people group,” says Myers.
“Out of the 70 million Deaf worldwide, less than two-percent of them have really embraced the Gospel.”
Today and during IWD, you can help DOOR raise Deaf awareness in 3 critical ways:
- Pray — On their website, DOOR shares daily prayer needs from Deaf Gospel workers around the world.
- Share — “Share this story on social media….forward this information to other people you think may be unaware,” requests Myers.
- Give — The first phase of four sign language Bible translations has almost been completed. With your help, DOOR’s translation teams can finish phase one and get evangelistic materials into Deaf groups that use these sign languages.
“When we begin to teach them sign language Scripture in their heart language, they begin to see, ‘Wow, God knows all languages, God loves all people, and I have direct access to Him,” shares Myers.
“’I don’t have to become hearing. I don’t have to use a spoken language. I can sign my prayers to the Lord, and I can have an intimate relationship with Him.’”