Belgian Coalition for Israel
IBAN: BE87 6511 4957 3194
Press Release of Shalom Festival
FESTIVAL OF PEACE 'SHALOM'
IN SIGN OF RESPECT
FOR THE JEWISH COMMUNITY
Antwerp, 19 October 2014 - The 6th Shalom Festival, in the heart of Antwerp, was this time in the wake of the recent turbulent period the Jewish community went through, following the attack at the Jewish Museum in Brussels and the escalating war in Gaza that brought to light the rising anti-Semitism all over Europe. The mainly Evangelical Christian and Jewish communities re-confirmed their mutual support and relationship. While each maintaining their own unique cultural values, they were all able to enjoy a multi-cultural event with Israeli and Christian songs, dance, music, literature and snacks, kosher and non-Kosher, together with many passersby that were drawn to the Festival. The Belgian Coalition for Israel, B'nai B'rith, Koinonia, Christians for Israel, ORT Belgium and Beautiful Israel can look back on another well attended day.
Ward Kennes, Flemish Parliament Member for CD&V, brought the festival to life with an opening speech in which he emphasised the need for freedom of religion and the need to consult with each other rather than to take up arms and fight. He expressed praise for the rich multicultural and multi-religious community of Antwerp. To commit violence on the grounds of religion is repulsive and must be repudiated and rejected, he said. It makes no sense to get into the political indoctrination of the ‘left’ or of the ‘right’ that misrepresent reality and by which entire communities are set in opposition against one another. The recent turbulent period that the Jewish community went through following the attack on the Jewish Museum and the political exploitation of the war in Gaza deserve our attention. As long as members of the Jewish community continue to be afraid to walk freely in the streets, we must continue to fight anti-Semitism, said Mr Kennes.
Despite the pressure that everyone was under, the atmosphere at the Festival was very good. Whilst singing well known songs like Jerusalem of Gold and Hava Nagila Hava, people were spontaneouslyclapping their hands along and dancing as a sign of harmony and a genuine desire for peace. Tasty Jewish snacks and interesting literature drew the attention of many people and Gospel choirs entertained everyone at the venue.
Kris Vleugels, President of C'axent, which is a movement for Christian values in politics, drew a link between the situation in Syria, Iraq, Israel and Gaza. He referred to the Beatitudes and ascertained that the words of Jesus are still valid and relevant today: the humble, the peacemakers, the merciful, those who are in mourning, and the pure in heart can celebrate and rejoice despite of the circumstances. Even when the truth is distorted or being misrepresented or when there is so much injustice in the Middle-East and elsewhere in the world. In this, our time reflects the biblical time of the prophet Habakkuk, who learnt to have hope in dark times of injustice to his people and the surrounding nations and was able to still see the light at the end of the tunnel. 'Let us, as Christians and Jews, reach out to moderate Muslims who also abhor what is perpetrated in the name of their religion now', said Kris Vleugels.
Mrs Idit Rozensweig Abu, Deputy Ambassador of Israel in Belgium, was happy to be present at the Festival and gave thanks to the organisers. Referring to the Shabbat reading last Saturday, she spoke of Noah and the rainbow of hope. Hope for peace in the Middle-East for all people. God will never give up or get tired of humanity or of His people. Mrs Rozensweig emphasized that in her country, Israel, people pray sincerely for peace (shalom) and for the Palestinians and the persecuted Christians and all the victims of ISIS, which a lot of them are Muslim. On behalf of the State of Israel she wished Shalom to everyone in the crowded square.
Israel, Christians and the Middle-East
Andre Gantman, who is a Member of the Municipal Council for N-VA and of Jewish origin himself, stressed the importance of showing solidarity with the persecuted Christians in the Middle-East, because without it there can never be real peace, he said.
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