The Church and inclusion, integration of persons with disability/special needs

The church is a central part of every society.

Religion and spirituality are part of society’s culture and existence. What people believe in and how they worship inform what they do and their responses to life’s issues.


In Ghana, it is reported that about 71 per cent of the population are Christians. This means the church plays a big role in how society behaves. The attitude of Ghanaians towards disability, is therefore, greatly influenced by their belief system.

What then is the church’s position when it comes to disability/persons with special needs? How is the church, including persons with disability/special needs in church activities or otherwise?

 The church has a big platform for advocacy and awareness creation for all issues, including persons with disability. Has the church in Ghana failed in this role? In a way, yes!


In a recent sermon by one of the well-known pastors in Ghana, he made very interesting comments about how Christianity in Africa has elements of the African traditional religion being embedded in it.

He referred to how modern African Christian religion focuses on the enemy (devil) hence searching for the spirit or individual behind what is classified as a misfortune in the Christian’s life.

He referred to how recent mass Christian prayer platforms perpetuate these beliefs originally emanating from the African traditional religion. This mindset in the church has contributed to the stigma, and ridicule experienced by persons with disability/special needs.

During a typical healing service in the church, the pastor or ‘prophet’ will summon all who need a miracle and pray for them for healing. Even though the Christian religion believes in healing etc., this practice inadvertently contributes to individuals who do not receive instant healing (in particular those with physical disability) to go through a period of mental torture, questioning why they were not healed.

Their mental health is often affected by this difficult experience. Sometimes in their bid to pursue healing, individuals with disability/special needs suffer in the hands of so many ‘men of God’, including physical, verbal and even sexual abuse.


What then can the church do to lessen the impact of such activities? Can the church pray for persons with disability/special needs without the associated ridicule? Can the church focus on contributing to a better quality of life for persons with disability/special needs rather than focusing on exorcising a spirit believed to be responsible for the disability?

How can you and I, as members of the church, contribute to including and integrating persons with disability/special needs in the church without making them feel awkward? Can the church engage health and rehabilitation professionals to educate the church about disability/special needs and the role the church plays in unintentionally but rather unfortunately disabling these individuals in our society?

How many of our churches have active units for persons with special needs/disability? It is time for the church to do a rethink about how they can meet the needs of people with disability/special needs as they’re equally part of the Christian family and society at large.

According to scriptures, God loves every one of them and this needs to translate into reality. Just creating good policies about the church’s position on persons with disability/special needs is not enough if it is not being implemented. 

The writer is a Speech and Language Therapist/Clinical Tutor
University of Ghana

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