Happy walk. Ray Leyesa / Flickr
As the Nobel committee in Oslo prepares to bestow its annual Peace Prize on – who? Greta Thunberg? Jacinda Ardern? Reporters Without Borders? – MercatorNet has made a choice of its own. Our heroes probably will not be found among the 301 nominees (whose names will be kept secret for another 50 years – if anyone is still interested then) but we think they are strong contenders.
They are a large group and came to our attention because October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month in the United States and other parts of the world. They are all the mums, dads, grandparents, therapists and teachers who give themselves unstintingly and cheerfully to the care and education of children with Down Syndrome, and people with the syndrome themselves, who increasingly claim their place in the community.
In a world inclined to make war on disabilities – especially trisomy 21 – this army of wonderful people practises the love, patience and generosity that raising a child with disabilities demands, and in doing so manifest the virtues that make for peace — in the home, the community and society at large.
The community of families and advocates is represented by many national and international organisations. The National Down Syndrome Society of the US may have started the ball rolling. It was founded in 1979 by Barton and Betsy Goodwin after their son Carson was born with Down. The NDSS, probably the biggest national group, gained recognition of October as Down Syndrome Awareness Month in the US in the 1980s.
Down Syndrome International launched in Britain in 1993 as a result of co-operation between groups in Canada, Australia and Mexico and was registered as a charity in the UK in 2002. DSi conducts training programmes and conferences in many countries. In 2006 it started observing World Down Syndrome Day on March 21st (reflecting the fact that Down is caused by a third chromosome at the 21st pair) and got UN recognition of the annual day in 2011.
It is no secret that, in the developed world at least, the majority of babies diagnosed with Down Syndrome before birth are aborted – a tragic and unnecessary step that arises out of fear of the burden these little ones might be for the parents and society.
Every day, however, all around the world, families and their professional helpers are heroically and cheerfully showing that, despite sometimes serious — but treatable — complications in infancy, these children can make wonderful progress and bring joy to those around them. They can grow in independence and competence and become valued members of the community.
So, kudos to all those great people – mums, dads, grandparents, doctors, therapists, teachers and others – who, by embracing those wounded by disability, defend human dignity and enable tthem to live and thrive as never before.