We take for granted how seamless communication is in the hearing world. The deaf community, especially the youth faces challenges to express themselves, their beliefs, and their goals. Despite these challenges, religion is the defining factor in their lives. It has a rich history, culture, values, and traditions that the deaf youth use as a guide to navigate and enrichen their lives.
In this post, we’ll explore how faith is inspiring the next generation of deaf leaders and activists.
What Can Religion Give to Young Deaf People
It’s important to recognize that not all young deaf people are religious. Therefore, faith can be as impactful as each individual allows it. Some feel they can live without it, while others spend their lives dedicated to the word of their creator. Here are a few things that religion can do for the deaf youth:
Sense of Belonging
Humans have lived in communities from the beginning and crave to find that sense of belonging. It’s emotionally fulfilling and mentally stimulating. Even more, a community gives an individual a sense of belonging.
For the deaf, many barriers put them out on the outside looking in. Living in a world with spoken language as the dominant form of communication can be isolating. It is hard to deal with at a young age, especially as a kid when all you want to do is fit in. At this age, there are also struggles with self-esteem, the sense of self, and a power dynamic among peers. Often, deaf kids are lower in position or subordinate to their hearing peers. They are treated differently, especially in a school with mostly hearing students.
Deaf students find it hard to assimilate into adolescent society. It leads to different health issues, like high rates of depression. On the flip side, they form social groups if other deaf kids attend the school, which has a positive impact.
Finding a deaf-friendly religious organization is half the battle in terms of accessibility. When a deaf individual does find that access, it leads them on a life-changing journey. They are worshipping with others that have the same life experience. The communication barriers are non-existent, and there are fewer feelings of low self-esteem or a sense of belonging. The presence of a being, whether it be Allah, Yahweh, or God, gives the young deaf community a purpose to develop themselves and figure out who they want to be.
Do deaf people lack or possess autonomy in their life?
The society an individual is born into influences autonomy. The narrative for the deaf community is a bit different. The deaf community experiences disempowerment daily. It stems from the lack of Sign Language outside of the deaf community. That is a form of disempowerment by taking away their right to communicate.
Many different ways to disempower deaf people in society, but it also affects the younger generation. Even as adolescents, they need a chance to govern their own life. For kids, this means that in school, as Terp Tree of the U.K. suggests letting them interact the same as hearing kids would, but make the resources available for that to happen. It empowers them through communication because it doesn’t take away that ability but enhances it, whether it be a program in public school or an exclusively religious school in Sign Language.
The same situation goes for religious places that have either a deaf leader or support like translators. When the form of communication is their mother tongue, deaf youth will feel more connected to the message because they can understand it. There won’t be this feeling of being neglected or left behind by their religion.
Social Justice and Advocacy
Advocacy is standing up for a particular group or cause. It could be any number of issues affecting the world today.
How does social justice relate to advocacy?
Well, people are fighting for everyone to be treated with equality. That should be basic, but we don’t live in a perfect world. Social justice stands on the premise that every human deserves equal access to basic needs.
As for advocacy and justice in the education system for deaf youth, the ASL (American Sign Language) Board of Education was established by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints last year. This board also includes representatives from the deaf community who are advocating for the youth of the deaf community. The board of representatives wants to improve the religious education of the deaf youth. They are pushing for integrating Sign Language into more churches and religious schools to elevate the learning experience for deaf students. The goal is to strengthen the deaf youth’s relationship with God, culture, and religion through their mother tongue.
The younger generation is the future and the only age group that we have to depend on to make good decisions for a positive impact. Developing youth leadership programs creates growth opportunities and promotes activism in the community. Leadership develops lifelong skills for the youth for job opportunities to personal life.
Lausanne is a deaf organization that trains young, deaf leaders worldwide. For more than 40 years, their mission gives young people the skills to become stewards to God and their community. It happens through seminars and other events to network the younger generation with other leaders within their community. Networking has a powerful influence and opens up opportunities for the religious community.
Personal and Spiritual Growth
Modern times have made mental health more of a priority conversation. Hearing people and deaf people deal with mental health issues to varying degrees. For the deaf, it’s a different circumstance because of the situational barriers to their daily life and their lack of communication abilities.
Everyone has coping mechanisms to deal with mental health issues. Yet, some people can find solace in practicing faith. It is especially true for the deaf community. The feeling of being left behind by the rest of society allows deaf people to turn to eternal beings. Faith gives them a sense of purpose and motivates them to live a meaningful life.
Practicing faith can also lead a deaf person on a personal growth journey. The development of faith for a deaf person depends on many things like family, social circle, community, and life experiences. Introducing religion early on in childhood impacts their values, morals, emotional development, and perspective on the world. The younger generation inherits these beliefs and finds a community that similarly sees itself.
Spiritual development can be part of creating new leaders in the future because they are gaining a genuine understanding of the world and the people who live in it. Through religion, they can ease the mind, use a new perspective, and reflect to achieve success.
Are you curious about the significant role that religion plays in the lives of young, deaf individuals? Would you like to deepen your understanding of how faith and spirituality impact their unique experiences? Visit, https://www.unspokenasl.com/