Disability in the eyes of religion
Many people think that in religions, sickness and disability are seen as punishments for bad behaviour; but at least for the four big world religions, disability has a whole different role.
In Islamic, Christian, Jewish and Buddhist believe, disabled people play a very important role within the communities. Disability is not simply a punishment for mistakes but has the purpose to show others – healthier and wealthier people – respect, humility and charity.
In God we are disabled?
From the beginning, Christianity tried to integrate disabled people into society as creatures of God. It is written in the gospels that Jesus used to live among blind, paralysed, and deaf people as well as among epileptics and mentally disabled people. To serve them, to be humble towards them made him greater in the eyes of God.
In Graeco-Roman culture, disabled people were under the care of slaves. Christianity ended this; disabled people came in custody of the Christian communities, later in institutions founded by the church.
Orthodox churches display icons of saints. One of them shows the saint Christophorus with a dog’s head which signifies a person with a severe birth defect. This icon is a symbol of the view that in a disabled person too lives God.
To help others is also entrenched in the Jewish culture. Jewish people are constrained to support weaker people and to accept them as fellow human beings. Moreover, one should help disabled people to become mostly independent.
Disability as an opportunity
In Buddhism, the concept of Karma explains a cause of disabilities. The disabled person receives the Karma of past life. Strictly seen, the disability is the result of committed mistakes in past life.
However, this is not all. Disability also includes the parents, the therapists and cares of the disabled person. For them and other people around the disabled person, the disability offers a chance to develop charity what results into a good karma for next life. The Dalai Lama, leader of the Tibetan Buddhism, sees a lot of potential in disabilities. They help us to lead an unselfish and graciously life.
The special place for disabled people in Allah
In Islamic believe, weaker people have an extra position in the eyes of God. They have the right of great support. Allah does not love the proud, says the Koran.
This is equivalent to nobody should be vain to be in a better health or wealth. One should rather thankfully use his/her wealth to support those who have less. This leads to social balance that allows everybody the take part in social life.
Showing respect and charity
This short excursion to the four main world religions shows us that disabled people have the role of teaching others humility and charity. This is important for a peaceful life with respect and love for each other.
Text: M. Plattner - 08/2011