Faith and Light is a unique movement that brings together thousands of people, some with disabilities and others without, through community and family gatherings.
Each Faith and Light community is centred around children or adults who have more or less significant intellectual disabilities. These individuals, accompanied by their family members and friends, are invited to participate in monthly meetings, in times of fellowship, prayer, and celebration.
People who are vulnerable because of disabilities help those around them—their entourage—to discover that another world exists beyond the world of competition, money, and material pleasures. In their very weakness, people with disabilities awaken tenderness, loyalty, the ability to listen, and faith. They become sources of union and communion in their communities, inspiring others to join with one another beyond and in spite of their cultural or religious affiliations.
Apart from these monthly meetings, Faith and Light communities organize a variety of activities according to the needs of their members, including such things as vacation camps, retreats, pilgrimages...
Forty-four years after the movement was founded at the initiative of Jean Vanier and Marie-Helene Mathieu, communities have multiplied across the world, creating circles of support and accompaniment for thousands of children and adults with disabilities. Faith and Light is active in a number of countries in which people marginalized by their intellectual disabilities live in very precarious conditions, often excluded and isolated.
In many situations, the causes of intellectual disabilities remain mysterious. Parents recognize that the child is not developing as quickly as others are; he or she learns to walk later than others; acquisition of language is delayed, inhibited somehow.
If such children perceive that they are not accepted; if they feel rejected, there is a danger that they will isolate themselves, shutting themselves away in their own inner worlds, where it is difficult to reach them. Sometimes, they become aggressive, even violent.
When a father and mother discover that their child is disabled, they embark on a long and painful journey. Life is turned upside down—nothing will ever be the same again.
Often, these parents are alone and without resources, lacking the help they will need to recover, to find strength again, to find respite. The way other people see them, the looks of rejection, of contempt, of indifference, of fear, and the lack of understanding of those around them only add to their distress.
Once the initial shock has passed, their first victory will be that they begin to look at their child with tenderness and love, without seeing the disability first—or only, without seeing what is missing, the wound, the injury. To welcome and love the child as he or she is, today, is to build, along with the child, a true road toward acceptance, the source of many riches for the child and the people around him or her.
In society, the person with an intellectual disability is still too often rejected and despised. Despite the tremendous progress that has been made in terms of assistive equipment, financial aid, integration in schools and the workplace, we still often see a great ambivalence in the welcome given to people marginalized by intellectual disabilities. In many countries, the elimination of the child with disablities while still in the womb is legally possible and sometimes until the day before his birth.
In countries where euthanasia is legal, parents of persons with disabilities fear of leaving their children alone in hospital.
Many parents, professionals, and associations, among them Faith and Light, work with heartfelt passion and fervour so that every human being might be fully recognized and respected as a unique being with his or her own unique calling and purpose.
International Coordinator : Ghislain du Chéné
Foi et Lumière International Secretariat
3, rue du Laos - 75015 PARIS – France
Tel. + 22.214.171.124.44.30
Fax + 126.96.36.199.44.38