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Indonesian children with Down syndrome find joy in life  

They gave a performance for World Down Syndrome Day and another upon an invitation from President Joko Widodo

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Indonesian children with Down syndrome find joy in life   

Intan Sartika Tasmaan shows off some of her craftwork at an event that marked World Down Syndrome Day in Jakarta, March 26. (ucanews.com photo)

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Intan Sartika Tasmaan has Down syndrome but she is grateful that her parents provided her with good opportunities because many others have faced discrimination even from their own families. 

Many people in Indonesia still look down on people with Down syndrome as they cannot contribute to society, some even think they are a curse so their families hide them or lock them up inside.

Tasmaan said she heard such stories but was glad her family gave her a normal life, allowing her to roam around and interact with people. She wants other people with Down syndrome to be accepted too.

Many people with the condition in Indonesia are not as lucky as Tasmaan who is allowed to perform traditional dance during public events, including a recent performance with other Down syndrome children in Bogor Palace, West Java, upon the invitation of President Joko Widodo.

"I am glad because I performed the Kicir-Kicir dance in front of the president," she told ucanews.com with a big smile.

Tasmaan also participated in an event hold by Jakarta Archdiocese Social Communication Commission on March 26 at St. Don Bosco Church in North Jakarta. The event was to mark World Down Syndrome Day which falls each year March 21.

About 45 people with Down syndrome attended the event from the Indonesian Down Syndrome Association, Lovely Hands and Dian Grahita. About 400 Catholics and Muslims participated in the day.


Children with Down syndrome play angklung music at an event to mark World Down Syndrome Day. (ucanews.com photo)


Surati, a Muslim woman, who accompanied her daughter, also shared her experience of how the community where she lives discriminates against people with Down syndrome.

"Some Muslims are ashamed of their children who suffer from the syndrome. In fact, they are a gift from God and we have to respect, educate and protect them," she said.

Indonesia has about 300,000 people with the condition but only one percent of their 170,891 schools have special facilities for them. Because of the lack of schools, Tasmaan's mother Maisi Wiryadi founded Dian Grahita school in 2009 to help her and other children with the condition.

Tasmaan is a junior high student at the school and now she can cook rice and vegetables, fry eggs and tofu, sing, dance, and paint. She has proven that people with Down syndrome are capable of contributing.

Her mother always brings her to public places, including churches in Jakarta, so that she can have self confidence.

Franciscan Sister Maria Joanni, who currently heads the Dian Grahita school said that parents and families have to care for their Down syndrome children with a loving touch and not be ashamed to bring them to church and public places. "We should know that they are gifts from God," she said.

Father Hary Sulistyo, chairman of Jakarta Archdiocese Social Communication Commission called on Catholics to show affection to Down syndrome people during Lent.

"Let's show respect to people with Down syndrome and continue to promote, respect and care for them," Father Sulistyo said.

The priest also suggested that the churches should encourage them to attend Eucharist every Sunday and not to have them celebrate Mass separately.

Jesuit Father Alexius Andang L Binawan, episcopal vicar of Jakarta Archdiocese, also urged Catholics "to behave with care and fairness and do not separate people with Down syndrome. We want Catholics in Jakarta to respect all life and human dignity," he said.

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