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Vatican stages UN event to protest ‘genocide’ against Down Syndrome

Vatican stages UN event to protest ‘genocide’ against Down Syndrome

NEW YORK – While the United Nations has a stated commitment to protecting and promoting the lives of those with Down Syndrome, the Holy See believes some in the international community are abetting what one Washington Post columnist recently termed a “genocide” against such individuals.

At a United Nations event on Tuesday in anticipation of World Down Syndrome Day on March 21, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the apostolic nuncio to the United Nations, charged delegates with failing to uphold protections enshrined in international agreements to protect those with disabilities.

“Despite the commitments made in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights, including that of the right to life, by all persons with disabilities, so many members of the international community stand on the sidelines as the vast majority of those diagnosed with Trisomy-21 have their lives ended before they’re even born,” Auza said.

The event, “No Room in Rural Villages, Cities and Homes for Those with Disabilities? Are Girls and Boys with Down Syndrome Being Left Behind?” was sponsored by the Holy See’s Mission to the United Nations, and took place as part of the 62nd Commission on the Status of Women.

The event comes at a time when some European countries have stated goals to “eliminate” Down Syndrome, which Auza decried as euphemistic, noting that “elimination” really means parents “choosing to end the life of their son or daughter.”

Down Syndrome is a genetic condition where individuals have an extra copy of chromosome 21. While individuals born with it often experience cognitive delays and other handicaps, the Holy See’s event was meant to establish, in Auza’s words, that “Downs children and their families are simply among the happiest groups of people alive – and the world is happier because of them.”

Among the panelists were Mary O’Callaghan, a developmental psychologist from the University of Notre Dame who has a son with Down Syndrome; Patricia White, also a mother to a Down Syndrome son, and co-founder of the Lumind Research Down Syndrome Foundation; Mikalya Holmgren, the first woman with Down syndrome to participate in the Miss Minnesota USA pageant; and Randall Wright, the director of Summer in the Forest, a new documentary about the L’Arche community for persons with disabilities – all of whom offered firsthand accounts of lives being improved by living with, or around, those with Downs.

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