Monday, 16 March 2015
Police estimate around 3,500 went to the Midi station in Brussels on Sunday at 2pm, as part of the international march “Together in Peace”. It was organised by representatives of different religions, and secularisation. The participants are opposed to the polarisation of society and the strategy of spreading fear through terrorist acts like those in Paris, Copenhagen, and Belgium. Numerous religious and political figures were present in the front row, including the Home Affairs minister Jan Jambon. Bishop Robert Innes (Anglican church), the Grand rabbi Albert Guigui (Judaism), Bishop Léonard (Catholic church), pastor Steven Fute, president of the Union of Belgian Protestant churches, Metropolitan bishop for Belgium Athenagoras Peckstadt, from the ecumenical patriarchy of Constantinople, (Orthodox church) and Henry Bartholomeeusen, president of the Secular centre, were all present.
The Molenbeek mayor Françoise Schepmans underlined the importance of this demonstration at local level: “My commune is at the forefront of the struggles we have today. The difficulty is that there is no mixing between religions in our neighbourhoods, so it is difficult to learn about other religious and philosophical ideas”.
Several stops were made along the route, in front of culturally significant places. The first was the new mosque in boulevard Lemonnier. Noureddine Smaïli, president of the Belgian Muslim Executive, opened discussions by calling on all Islamic religious leaders to condemn terrorism in all its forms, and encourage passive discussions that respect democratic values. Her first words were: “For he who kills a man, it is like he has killed all Men. Man with a capital M, meaning all men and women”.