March 30-31, 2019, Volos, Greece
On Saturday, March 30, 2019 the Pan-Hellenic Conference with an international participation was successfully held in Volos on the general theme: “Church, Disability and Society.” The conference was organized by the Volos Academy for Theological Studies in cooperation with the Holy Metropolis of Demetrias, the charitable company “Health Path” and the Association of People with Disabilities in Magnesia, “Ippokampos”. The topic in question attracted the interest of teachers, scientists, students, people with disabilities and citizens who are aware of and active on this issue.
The aim of the conference was to inform and raise the awareness of the clergy, the students and all the concerned citizens on issues related to disability within ecclesiastical and the wider society. The conference was greeted by Dr. Pantelis Kalaitzidis, Director of the Volos Academy for Theological Studies, Ourania Karanikola, General Secretary of the Regional Federation of People with Disabilities in Thessalia, and President of the Association of Parents and Children with Disabilities (on behalf of the President of the National Confedeation of People with Disabilities), Mr. Petros Bellos, President of the Association of People with Disabilities of Magnesia, “Ippokambos” (on behalf of the President of the Pan-Hellenic Association of People with Disabilities), while the conference concluded with the remarks by the Metropolitan Ignatius of Demetrias.
The conference presentations addressed a variety of themes: a) “Psycho-social dimension of disability,” b) “Practices of integration and accessibility of persons with disabilities in the liturgical texts and the body of the Church,” c) “Orthodox theology and disability.” In the first session Dr. Galini Sapountzaki (Sign Language Linguist, Assistant Professor of Special Education, Department of Special Education, University of Thessaly) spoke on the topic “Self-identification and self-image of people with hearing impaired problems”; Dr. Ioulia Nissiotou (Paediatrist, Assistant Professor, Department of Special Education, University of Thessaly) presented the topic “The Doctor as a companion of the disabled child and his/her parents;” while Ioanna Georgiadou (Social Clinic Psychologist MSc, Systemic Psychotherapist, PhD Candidate of the University of Thessaly) spoke on “Self-assistance and empowerment of people with mobility disabilities.” During the second session the first speaker, Rev. Anargyros Sigalas (Parish Priest, Agioi Pantes Church Kallithea, Athens) presented a paper on “Deaf hearings…meaningful: the example of the parish of deaf people, while Rev. Dr. Konstantinos Papanikolaou (Former Director of IEA, Member of the EASPD Standing Committee on Employment) spoke on the topic “OLYMPIAS, Facilitating the access of people with disabilities to the Church and work through the Internet.” During the last session Katerina Pekridou (Executive Secretary for the Theological Dialogue, Conference of European Churches-CEC, Brussels) delivered a talk on “Theology and Disability: Towards a meaningful dialogue in the Body of the Church;” Dr. Katerina Tsalampouni (Associate Professor, Faculty of Theology, University of Thessaloniki, Member of the Board of Directors of the Volos Academy for Theological Studies) spoke on the topic “ ‘Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame’ (Lk 14,21): Disability and the Kingdom of God;” and Dr. Petre Maican (Aberdeen University, UK) who spoke on the topic “The Gifts of the Holy Spirit and the Gifts of Persons with Disabilities for the Church: Developing the Pneumatological Dimension of Orthodox ecclesiology.”
A round table discussion also took place during the conference on the topic “Church and Disability: Obstacles and Bridges” with the participation of Petros Bellos (President of the Association of People with Disabilities in Magnesia, “Ippokampos”), Ioanna Georgiadou (Social Psychologist, Msc, Systemic Psychotherapist), Rev. Georgios Giannios (Parish Priest, The Dormition of the Mother of God church, Metropolis of Demetrias, Member of the writers team of the book manual, “The Religious Lesson in Special Education”), and Dr. Christina Lappa (Post-doctoral Researcher in Special Education, University of Thessaly, Lecturer at the Hellenic Open University). During the conference all the papers were presented in the sign language while the closing of the conference took place in the morning of Sunday, March 31, with the Divine Liturgy at the Church of Evangelistria in Nea Ionia, Volos, which was also presented in the sign language.
The papers and the discussion that took place during the conference are posted on the YouTube channel of the Volos Academy of Theological Studies: