Some years ago, deaf people in Nyahururu town walked out of some churches, including Catholic and formed “The Church for the Deaf”.
Their action was a protest because they were not following what was going on in those churches during Sunday services since there were no sign language interpreters.
Unfortunately, the Church of the Deaf collapsed due to what was said to be lack of ability of the person who spearheaded the formation to interpret the Bible because he was a layperson.
Last Sunday (October 27, 2019), 12 of the deaf people trooped back to Mary Immaculate Cathedral Church in Nyahururu town, the day the Catholic Church officially introduced sign language interpretation.
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Bishop Joseph Mbatia of the Nyahururu Catholic Diocese was at hand to welcome this special group to the church. The bishop interacted with them after the Sunday service where he also learnt a few signs like that of greeting a deaf person.
He told them: “You are welcome and bring many others to the church.”
The Cathedral Church became the second in the diocese which covers Nyandarua, Laikipia and Subukia area of Nakuru County to introduce sign language after Laikipia’s Ol Moran Church which embraced the practice in 2015. Sister Emma Francoise, who is from Cameroon, introduced sign language at the Ol Moran Church to take care of some members who were deaf and became the sign language interpreter there. She was also instrumental in introducing the practice in the Nyahururu Church after learning of many deaf people living around the town.
Since Nyahururu and Ol Moran are over 60km apart, a sign language interpreter was needed for the Nyahururu Church. Luckily, Jane Kamau was interested and was sponsored to learn the language at Kenya Institute for Special Education (KISE) where she graduated recently. She will be sign language interpreter at the Mary Immaculate
Cathedral where she is a member of the church. “The task ahead is enormous because we have to reach as many deaf people as possible and bring them to church,” said Jane.
Jane and Emma agree that deaf people have largely been neglected by churches in the country. Jane said people with other disabilities have been catered for through such provisions as ramps for those using wheelchairs.
Arrival of the deaf at the Mary Immaculate cathedral came a day after Bishop Mbatia urged the Catholic Men Association (CMA) members to reach people who don’t know God instead of evangelizing among themselves.
“Don’t leave the task of reaching those people to Bishop and priests alone, you also need to go out and bring people to the church,” he told the CMA members during their annual prayer day held at the Cathedral. The sentiments were echoed by Bishop Emeritus Luigi Paiaro who also attended the CMA meeting.
The bishop revealed how he once blasted members of SDA who tried to preach to him, saying, “I told them I already know God and they should go and preach to those who don’t know Him.”
By embracing sign language in its functions, the Nyahururu Catholic Church was also complying with the law that requires use of sign language interpreters in public functions.
The law introduced through a private members motion brought to National Assembly by former Nyandarua Woman Representative Wanjiku Muhia. The law made television broadcasting stations to embrace sign language interpreters on their screens. Wa Muhia is currently a member of the East African Assembly.