Bern, April 23, 2014. [CD-EUDNews]. Altena, Germany. About 75 people decided to spend their Easter holidays at a Congress, to celebrate 95 years of specializing activities for the deaf. “This was my second International Deaf Congress” says Corrado Cozzi, Inter-European Region of Seventh-day Adventist (Adventists) Communication Director and Deaf Liaison, “and I will never forget the wonderful experiences I have had at this special conference. I truly think that everybody should participate to understand the true meaning of solidarity. I feel enriched every time I have the opportunity to attend these events”.
From April 17-21, 2014, the International Adventist Deaf Congress of the Inter-European Region was organised for its third edition.
The congress created opportunities for deaf Adventists and friends to meet and share time together in an adapted environment.
There are more than 250 million deaf in the world, and about 35.5 millions in Europe. Only 2% are Christian or are part of a religious community. Within the 2% we find the Adventist Deaf, a minority that is organized in local associations. In the Inter-European Region, there is the French Deaf Association Signe d’esperance, the Spanish Deaf Association ASAE, and the German Deaf Association called Singen mit Händen!
This year’s Deaf International Congress was hosted by the German Deaf Association that celebrates 95 years of existence. The event was held in the beautiful structure of Bergheim Mühlenrahmede, hosting around 75 participants coming from nine countries of Europe, Africa and America. Among them were also a number of hearing people taking care of the interpretation and translation. "Unfortunately, we couldn’t accommodated more attendees," house manager Reinhard Fuchs said with regret. Everything was well organized for the whole week-end, especially the food was much appreciated by all participants.
The program was scheduled in a way that allowed everybody to find something that they really enjoyed: devotionals, presentations on various topics, worship time, spiritual messages, as well as time for fellowship and tourism.
The whole program was presented and conducted in sign language. Starting from the praise moments, through the praying, singing and messages, including any kind of communication – all was presented in about seven different signs languages all at the same time! And the participants got along great, whether they came from Kenya, Spain, France, England, Finland, Austria, Latvia or from Germany.
A special guest speaker was Kenyan Henry Maina Kamau, a theology student of ´Baraton´ University, himself hearing-impaired and coordinator of the deaf community in Kenya. With him was also pastor Elam Musoni, coordinator of the Adventist Deaf community in East Central Africa region.
“The event was very successful” comments pastor Gerd Wildemann, German Deaf coordinator, and general organizer of the Congress. “We had a wonderful time together, with excellent communication and good friendship.”
“Our theme for the Jubilee was Get together in Communication," explains Gerd Wildeman, who is always looking for new ways of communication for his Adventist deaf community. In fact, one of the major challenges for the Deaf is when there is no translator available. Most of the time, they leave meetings unsatisfied, and we are now becoming more aware of their special needs.
One of the reason of such events are organized is so that there will be more awareness among the hearing, and more people will want to become interpreters. “My goal for the deaf community living in the ‘diaspora’ is to have more interpreters in the Adventist churches” says Gerd Wildemann. For this reason, one of the wishes expressed is that the Adventist television Hope Chann
el could broadcast programs with Deaf sign language interpreters on a regular basis. In addition to this, a new web page for the Adventist Deaf is being prepared (www.adventistdeaf.org) and the planning for another International Congress has already started.
"On behalf of the General Conference we express our congratulations for 95 years of work with the Deaf in Germany!” says Larry Evans, Deaf Liaison at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. “The stage set by the pioneers is now bearing fruit.”
All around the world a new awareness seems to be taking place, and we sense this happening in Germany and in all of Europe as well. The Deaf are part of our society, but if there are no services offered for them, the rest of society may seldom notice they are there at all. For far too long the 250+ million deaf have been marginalized. While they do have needs, they also bring great reso
urces of talent and ingenuity.
“I have never attended any of hese congresses without being richly blessed by their presence. I learn so much!" concludes Larry Evans.
Besides the sightseeing program to the Attahöhlen, the caves of the area, and a boat tour on the lake Bigge, the organizers offered an artistic and cultural program on Saturday night inviting mime actor Carlos Martinez to be part of the program.
People were impressed by Carlos' Bible parables in mimes.
Another evening program was planned, yet, it took a more business-like turn: the attendees considered, discussed and planned for a new “Adventist” sign, and finally voted their preference. “It was a weak point to have a ‘voting’ session, even though it may have been necessary” claimed Gerd Wildemann, “considering that on a worldwide level we ar
e almost ready for a new sign. Who knows, their proposal may be considered as the new official sign.”
Special thanks was expressed at the end of the Congress, everyone was grateful for all the interpreters who dedicated their time and energy and made communication possible.
We all wish to meet again for another International Deaf Congress next year, possibly in Spain.
1 right, a Deaf participant; 2 left, Gerd Wildemann; 3 left the meeting hall; 4 left Henry Maina Kamau; 5 right Corrado Cozzi and Larry Evans; 6 left Carlos Martinez in action; 7 right Deaf participants; 8 the whole group of participants