Easter Ceremony ridicules Disabled Child

Yesterday, I went to the small town of Dingli in Malta to watch a street procession for Easter. There were bands and the scouts who played music. Children and adults had dressed up as persons from the Bible’s New Testament and marched through the streets of Dingli while the story of Jesus’ life was read out over loudspeakers.

I found the event very well organised, the costumes colourful and creative and the citizens of Dingli giving their best to impersonate characters from the Bible. I enjoyed the evening – until something happened that shocked me so much that I could not believe it at first. But see for yourself.

One of the highlights of the procession were the children. They were cute, sweet and lovely.

But Saint Mary Band Club of Dingli also had one child who visibly suffers from Down syndrome, a handicapped child. Oh shock. “What do we do with the disabled child?” the organisers asked. And had an idea: “We have the perfect role for the handicapped and disadvantaged child.” This is what they came up with:

Yes, you are seeing correctly. This boy was given the job to announce and walk around town in front of Satan. The devil. The impersonation of evil. When I saw this boy step out of the hall with the sign “Satan” in front of him – after dozens of other children had announced Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the Apostles and so on – I could not believe my eyes. I was shocked.

What did the organisers think?

  • Disability is God’s punishment. He deserves it.
  • This boy is dangerous. We need to warn the whole town.
  • We cannot let him announce an Apostle. That would be too much of this integration stuff.
  • We don’t have a black child.

On the Official Malta Tourism Site, the event was announced, inter alia, as follows:

The principal aim of the author for this production is to convey the message of God’s Love for Humanity and through such love, God wants to release us from our sins through His Son, Jesus Christ. The message is one of triumph over the darkness of evil and of everlasting happiness. Through this Pageant, the organisers wish the general public to understand that only GOD can make a difference in our lives.

Maybe I imagined this, but I had the impression that I was not the only one in the audience who was shocked. If you were in Dingli this Saturday as well, I would love to hear from you.

(C) for all photos: Andreas Moser, 31 March 2012.

About Andreas Moser

Travelling the world and writing about it. I have degrees in law and philosophy, but I'd much rather be a journalist, a spy or a hobo.
This entry was posted in Human Rights, Malta, Photography, Religion and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

37 Responses to Easter Ceremony ridicules Disabled Child

  1. usrep says:

    oh come on andreas. i am all the time shocked when i think about my 16 years of my life i’ve wasted believing that there’s a god who has a palace but because he loves us he sent us to live in the cellar. and that this god created everything and that everything was perfect. and then came this naughty angel who wanted to be god himself and god turned him into a devil. how can someting (an angel) that is perfect turn bad? etc etc…

    now re downsyndrome boy. i think , 99%, it was just a coincidence…somebody had to do that part.

    to see the “best” good friday procession go to Haz Zebbug or to Hal Qormi …This coming Friday

  2. Lillian Smith says:

    I think you are reading too much into this. The fact that the boy had Downs Syndrome had nothing to do with the fact that he held up a sign to announce the coming of Satan. If anything, Downs Syndrome people are farther removed from Satan then normal persons – they remain angel-like all their lives.

  3. Marco N says:

    good theatre. :)

  4. I don’t think you are reading too much into this at all. ‘Disability’ and ‘Sin’ have been interwined throughout history. What happened here was purposeful, it’s naive to think it not. A statement was being made – be clear about that! Horrible and horrifying.

    • I never believed it was coincidence. There were dozens of roles for dozens of children, it would have been easy to find something less stigmatising, e.g. in a group of others, like the Apostles.

      • David says:

        Yes you are reading into it too much. Malta may be considered socially backward in certain aspects, but we do not mock handicap or retardation, and haven’t done so for decades. The fact that you are even insinuating it is extremely insulting.

    • Lillian Smith says:

      Dave

      This is a bit rich coming from another compatriot (I presume) of Andreas, when you consider the fact that less then 70 years ago, the democratically elected government of Germany was busy killing these people, which Hitler considered a burden on society.

      If anything the picture shows that the Maltese take very good care of their disabled and mentally challenged persons and include them in the daily life of their society. That is what I get from the photo. Maybe this is pure Freudian projection on both your parts.

    • Stefan MD says:

      Oh seriously, what a load of bollocks. The only “sin” that can be attributed to the organisers is that they did not think it through and consider that the uptight people will make the connection of ridicule, naivety at its best. That is the problem with P.C. That said my opinion is that they SHOULD have thought it through in the first place, but I always say that the people who think the worst about situations are the ones guilty of them.

  5. Wait until you hear the second shocking revelation about this event. Exclusively on my blog. Soon.

  6. Maltese says:

    What would you say if he was given the role of satan? Im sure this was not done intentionally.

  7. Maltese says:

    Disabled People in Malta are treated as ‘normal’ people, if not better.

    Have a good day :)

  8. Nimrod says:

    To be honest, I don’t think the organiser’s train of thought got that far. His mother probably wanted him to have a role and that was the only spot left. You have to understand that the people who organise these events are not particularly sophisticated or intelligent. They would not make the connection between him having a disability and the fact that he’s announcing the devil. I say, if the parents are happy and the kid is happy then let them be.

    Having said that, if hypocrisy, crassness, idolatry and general Maltese ignorance is what you’re looking for then you’re in the right place. Maltese festas and church celebrations are the place to be for that.

  9. Dudu says:

    Hi Andreas, I think that your interpretation of this event is totally off the mark and shows that your understanding of Maltese society is still superficial. You are still in the phase – Malta = extremely Catholic + small island = very backward. You have been reading too many textbooks, I’m afraid.

    If you knew Maltese parents well, you would know that even if the organisers intended to communicate that message they would not have dared giving the sign to him anyway because no parent would have allowed their son to be humiliated in such a public manner. And trust me, we don’t want to make Maltese parents angry. I should know this, I taught in a primary school for four years.

    Besides, it would have worried me more and perhaps yourself too, if the organisers had decided not to give him the ‘satan’ sign because he is ‘different’.

    • David says:

      Dudu, your first paragraph couldn’t have put it any better. Ironically, it seems like the same people who criticise Maltese racism also find stereotypes comfortable. We all have to be ignorant, Catholic and backward. The truth is, Maltese society is pretty heterogenous, and that’s without taking expats and immigrants into the equation.

  10. m4nti says:

    People here have no CLUE what they’re talking about. You’re right Andreas. This is humiliating. And while I highly doubt this was intentional it’s also a large oversight by the organizers. Who the hell (no pun intended) didn’t even get the slightest clue that this is degrading and hurtful? Whether they did it on purpose doesn’t matter; what matters is that they didn’t have the social awareness (or even some common sense?) to realize that this might be taking things a little too far. There were many other roles that could have been given to him.

    This is like having only one girl in the procession and have HER play Satan. Or the only black guy in the procession. So on and so forth.

    This is wrong and I’m glad someone pointed it out. Nicely done.

    • Stefan MD says:

      I guess in the end you’re the one who has no clue what he’s talking about. The guy chose to take that part and I guess refusing to give it to him would have then amounted to discrimination then, would it? But of course that he would have been refused the part would have made it in public, all that matters is appearances. *sigh*

      • Stefan MD says:

        I meant to say
        “that he would have been refused the part WOULD NOT have made it to the public”

    • Robert Vella says:

      Andreas,

      As one involved in the organization of the mentioned event “Street Pageant in Dingli” I would like to clarify some points mentioned in your blog.

      First of all I would like to thank you for coming to our event and that you said that the event was well organized and the costumes that our group was wearing were beautiful, but when you mentioned the disabled person that was with our group you was totally wrong in what you said.
      First of all, the disabled person you mentioned in your blog is NOT A CHILD, BUT A GROWN UP 25-year-old person from our village and this year was his 6th year with us during this pageant. We don’t give that part he was doing to a small child and the person mention enjoys doing this part and so do his parents.

      Apart from him, there were other disabled and dark-skin persons taking part in this event that you didn’t even took notice of. By the way during the year, this person spends most of the time looking after the donkey that took part during the pageant and after many other animals on his father’s farm that makes him occupied during the day. This guy is always welcome in our events and so are other Down syndrome people.

      Please next time before writing something that is new for you make sure that you make proper research so that you don’t give Someone who is volunteering and without any profit organizing such events a bad image.

  11. Pingback: Anti-Semitism at Easter Procession in Malta | The Happy Hermit

  12. Robert Vella says:

    Andreas,

    As one involved in the organization of the mentioned event “Street Pageant in Dingli” I would like to clarify some points mentioned in your blog.

    First of all I would like to thank you for coming to our event and that you said that the event was well organized and the costumes that our group was wearing were beautiful, but when you mentioned the disabled person that was with our group you was totally wrong in what you said.
    First of all, the disabled person you mentioned in your blog is NOT A CHILD, BUT A GROWN UP 25-year-old person from our village and this year was his 6th year with us during this pageant. We don’t give that part he was doing to a small child and the person mention enjoys doing this part and so do his parents.

    Apart from him, there were other disabled and dark-skin persons taking part in this event that you didn’t even took notice of. By the way during the year, this person spends most of the time looking after the donkey that took part during the pageant and after many other animals on his father’s farm that makes him occupied during the day. This guy is always welcome in our events and so are other Down syndrome people.

    Please next time before writing something that is new for you make sure that you make proper research so that you don’t give Someone who is volunteering and without any profit organizing such events a bad image.

  13. Robert Vella says:

    And regarding the photo that you took of the disabled person, next time leave it in colour and don’t edit it to make it look nastier.

  14. Robert, would I be correct in assuming that the offending picture shows Satan being bound – i.e. defeated by Jesus Christ’s death, so in actuality the young man with Down syndrome is dressed as an angel?

  15. I’ve just seen a colour photo of Satan and see that what I mistook for a rope was actually a snake.

  16. Shugie says:

    I wasn’t in Malta,but from your report of the event I think you are reading too much into this. Thank you for being concerned about how a young man with Down syndrome was being treated! I would like to ask that you don’t think of those with Down’s syndrome as “suffering” from it. My son has Down syndrome & I assure you he does not suffer from it.

  17. What says:

    I think you have some semblance of a point in your other post regarding the star of david, but this is just absurd! How is it degrading? Being in the procession is an honour. They treated him like anyone else in the community and gave him a role in the procession. There is no correlation between down’s syndrome and Satan, so why would the organisers think this was in poor taste?

    Also, I agree that ‘suffering from down’s syndrome’ is an offensive way of putting it, and I don’t understand why on earth you thought he was a child. Even from that unnecessarily doctored photo it’s clear he’s an adult.

    I definitely think you need to work on your own prejudices before pointing the finger at anyone else. Please just relax and enjoy Malta – why live here if you’re going to be so insular and judgmental about every facet of Maltese culture?

  18. MarkBiwwa says:

    Again Andreas, I doubt it was intentional and aimed to offend, although I do agree it’s highly insensitive. But knowing my countrymen, I say that in this case it’s again down to ignorance and lack of foresight.

  19. Fiona Sciberras says:

    A little note to the sophisticated, intelligent person who makes assumptions about people organising these events. It would be worth detailing the research undertaken to have come to the conclusion that the people are involved are not “sophisticated or intelligent”. In future, you might want to learn more about a society before you choose to comment.

  20. Cassandra Testaferrata Moroni Viani says:

    What self-righteous twaddle. Ignorant blog post, I shan’t be reading anything else you write.

  21. asdf says:

    Did you ask the person if you are allowed to publish his picture in such a shameful way? You even make it worse with your B/W editing! You are breaching a lot of laws with publishing his picture without his consent and then even redicule him!

  22. aisha says:

    It was purposeful act to give him that role meaning everything not perfect is not from God but Satan. you did the right thing for posting this, God reward you and this will make some discriminating people point put on their thinking cap

  23. John Vella says:

    You’re not Happy, You’re a Hermit!!

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