By: Barbara Childress (05/31/17)
Even though Abbe Charles Michel de L’Epee did not invent “sign language”, he is my favorite historical figure in Deaf History. His desire to include deaf children in the learning and practice of religion speaks highly of his heart for all of mankind.
In many historical settings, priests, educators and missionaries have shown the love of God to all people despite race or abilities. All the way back to the Old Testament, when the prophet Malachi proclaimed “Do we not have one father? Has not one God created us? Why does each of us act deceitfully, each man against his brother, to profane the covenant of our fathers?” ( Malachi 2:10, International Standard Version)
Even the Apostle Paul’s teachings in the New Testament were based on the premise that God’s salvation of all mankind was not based on “Jew nor Greek…bond or free…male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus”. (Galatians 3:28, King James Version)
Upon the influence of an Italian teacher, Phillip Mazzei, Thomas Jefferson, along with four others, wrote that all men are created equal in the 2nd paragraph of the U. S. Constitution.
The ongoing passion of many important people has brought about the opportunity for everyone to become educated, protected and encouraged to pursue Life, Liberty and Happiness.
I think Abbe De L’Epee was surrendering his heart to a higher calling that took bravery and fortitude. No doubt, there were objections and possibly, threats, but he forged his way through difficulties to bring about a way for deaf children to learn of the Love of God. In the process, God used Abbe de L’Epee to prepare the way for the manual alphabet as well as a shift in society to view all men/women and children equal and capable of education, expression and communication.