What does it mean to value all people as Jesus does?
I’ve a friend who’s a professor of peace studies, a lawyer with a doctorate of law on human rights. We often get into discussions, even arguments on the way to interpret rights. First – I believe strongly in human rights. Our promise at cbm is to “value all as Jesus does”, which in my mind is stronger than human rights. Let me explain.
I saw a video that was taken by a mother of a boy with CP, who was in a school in North America. The video is taken at recess. His wheelchair is wheeled out to the playground and left. Around him kids play, run, yell and laugh with joy. No one interacts with the boy the whole recess. Indeed, it is obvious that this boy is desperately trying to get the attention of other kids, to interact with them. None will. The video ends with the boy’s educational assistant coming back and wheeling him back to the school.
It’s a very hard video to watch.
This video starkly shows the limits of human rights. I guarantee that this school meets all the standards that governments can have for accessibility. The doorways will be accessible. The boy is welcomed into school with an assistant. There will be ramps and washrooms available to him, and he is in a very comfortable wheelchair. I bet this school is even a model of accessibility. The point I made to my friend, the human rights lawyer, is that all this boy’s rights are met. Yet, this is perhaps one of the saddest videos that I’ve seen. I’m haunted by the boy trying to get others to talk to him, to play with him, to include him. The human rights approach was totally met for this boy – yet it was not enough.
Valuing all people as Jesus does means going beyond human rights. In this example, making sure the physical space and accommodations are met for the boy is not enough. What is needed is “value”. What does it take for this boy to feel valued by his peers? What difference would this make in his school, in his future, in his life?
It’s important that all barriers to kids going to school are broken. Yes, schools need to be accessible. It’s great to have teaching assistants for kids with special needs. cbm’s definition of impact includes those rights, but goes much deeper. It’s about those kids feeling loved at home, valued by school mates, contributing members of society, and having families of their own.
We value all people as Jesus does.
This is a powerful statement that goes so much deeper than basic human rights given by a state. I’ve often thought that this is what defines us as a Christian organization – the willingness to go beyond the legal definitions and to provide spiritual care and social inclusion.
Because we feel so strongly that the ultimate measure of impact is when a child feels valued the way Jesus values them, we are working to make our programs more child-focused. Yes, we’ve always cared for children, but moving forward when we design programs, we’ll be asking different questions and listening to different voices. We will be listening more intently to children and their caregivers as we develop solutions. We won’t be focussed on blindness as our entry point – as we’ve tended to be in the past – we’ll be focusing on the primary needs of children caught in the cycle of poverty and disability.
You can read more about this refined program focus in this recent announcement:cbm Announcement