“Unity in Diversity” by Untitled Blue is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Embracing diversity has many social benefits, especially for minority cultures. It allows for clear communication, leading to better communication across communities. Better communication promotes understanding and potentially creates tolerance for other cultures. 

Diversity isn’t only good for the world but also for the deaf community. Hearing people can appreciate and recognize deaf culture as distinct and deaf people can do the same for other communities. 

In this post, we’ll explore how faith is embracing linguistic and cultural diversity within and outside the deaf community. 

How Language Coincides with Culture

There are over 6,000 languages worldwide, including the many dialects of Sign Language. The point is that language is culture. It is how we communicate with one another, share ideas, and build our communities. 

Language also creates a society. It builds those values and morals for a community. However, more broadly speaking, society is the premise of the culture. Therefore, language is a huge part of the culture. The symbols, meanings, and cultural norms stem from a language. 

Different dialects contribute to the subsets of a culture. Knowing a language can help someone connect with a culture that is not theirs. It’s a tool or gateway to understanding society. 

Linguistics in the Deaf Community

“Students practice sign language with a teacher” by World Bank Photo Collection is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

The deaf community relies on visual language rather than spoken language. That in itself sets them apart from the rest of the world. It is also why deaf people are part of a minority of cultural and linguistic groups. 

What Makes the Deaf Culturally Diverse?

One of the things that makes the deaf community so culturally diverse is Sign Language. It develops independently depending on the country or region. There is also no universal Sign Language, but they can still communicate with one another to some extent. 

According to Sign Solutions in the UK, Sign Language also forms with influence from the local culture. That makes over 300 Sign Languages Now, imagine how many deaf cultures there are worldwide. The cultures make deaf communities highly diverse. Because of this diversity, identity comes into question. 

How does a deaf person see themself? What do they identify as?

The National Deaf Center states that deaf people are fluid in their identity. Aside from coming from local culture, their identity is influenced by several things like, their environment, other characteristics, and ethnic background. When interacting with the deaf community, it is crucial to honor these differences that make each community unique. 

Does Religion Promote Diversity?

People can think of religion as closed-off and exclusive. However, if you flip the narrative, it is more diverse than it appears. There are so many different belief systems out there, and people from the outside have some knowledge of that system. 

No two communities of deaf people are the same. Each developed independently. Therefore, they might follow a different belief system. That is why freedom of religion exists. It emphasizes the idea of various religions being part of life. 

There are a few ways to promote religious diversity within the community. It will help alleviate prejudice or bigotry towards others who are different, even if they use Sign Language. For example:

  • Educating and broadening perspective to understand that some belief systems are different.
  • Respecting others’ religious beliefs and appreciating the fact that they exist.
  • Giving deaf people the same treatment as hearing people for their religious beliefs, such as a prayer room at work or acknowledging dietary restrictions.

Tolerance in Faith

Practicing faith can provide meaning and a framework for understanding the world. Tolerance depends on some aspects of the religion, especially the values and moral code. The point of religious tolerance is allowing other faiths to exist. And some religions do teach tolerance towards things that don’t align with their specific beliefs. While other followers might be so devoted, they fail to see the other side. 

Tolerance as a word means acceptance and a place to start with religion’s tolerance is how deaf people are described in religious teachings. However, the Christian church does categorize them as people with a disability because of their condition. 

Standing up and advocating diversity also presents how tolerant people are towards others following their religion. Sure, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, and others will allow deaf people to attend a service but tolerance is also accommodating and understanding the struggles that others face. 

It’s also important to recognize the needs of every unique deaf community. Some religious sites have already made the initiative to provide more resources for deaf people. Some of the key things to remember about deaf people and diversity are:

  1. Sign Language: This is the biggest factor in religious tolerance. According to a study at Gallaudet University, students feel excluded in the church because they couldn’t understand anything. Sign language in the church is crucial because it provides effective communication. Their mother tongue allows deaf people to engage and feel part of the ritual or service.
  2.  Deaf Leadership and Worship: Promoting the deaf to participate in service is embracing diversity. Educating them to become leaders in the church and leading things like workshops and religious education classes powerfully impacts the deaf community. Placing interpreters in religious services or rituals establishes an understanding of the specific needs of the deaf community. It also means more representation for them in the greater community.
  3. Collaborating with Deaf Organizations: Working closely with the deaf is another way to understand and embrace diversity. It fosters relationships and creates an interfaith dialogue. It allows an understanding of the needs of the deaf community and their values system to make an open environment.

Religion plays a significant role in life for the deaf community, as it does with others. The Freedom of religion is present in the deaf community. Understanding that these differences exist because of the environment or the local culture is the foundation for tolerance. 

Perspective is everything for building diversity. People come from all walks of life. For example, just because two people are deaf doesn’t mean they agree on everything. If deaf people from other places interact with another religious community, they can bring a fresh perspective, new ideas, and beliefs about how they see the world. These unique beliefs can be a positive change and permit deaf people to think outside the box they put themselves in.

It’s time to end the generalizations that religion often enables, especially with how the church views the deaf community. Recognizing that deaf communities are diverse in their linguistic, cultural, and religious characteristics only adds to the richness of deaf culture. To broaden your perspective on the diversity of the deaf community, visit  https://www.unspokenasl.com/