Press release Shalomfestival 2021 Antwerp

“In the past, the Jewish community was very hesitant towards any outstretched hand from other faith communities. Are their intentions genuine, do they want to convert us or are they after something? But here it is evidence that cooperation can take place in all openness and with respect for each other’s individuality. This is a very diverse company. And the weather is on our side… all our prayers were answered.” Michael Freilich, member of parliament, as interviewed by the ‘Gazet van Antwerpen’.


The Groenplaats had an extraordinary experience on that day. Like friends who finaly found each other, a very diverse audience sat on the chairs, under the stands, on and around the stage of the Shalom Festival. Young and old, traditional and modern, from diverse cultures, faith and confession, on ordinary or very serious matters, painted the day with an astonishing harmony. There was no trace of hate speech or bitterness.


Much more than entertainment was the content of the event. A well presented message of peace, served from different angles, supplemented and experienced, made the festival worthy of its name.
“What is the message that we can take with us, how can we work towards peace in our own environment, what are the keys on the way to peace in family, our city and as far as the Middle East?” These were the questions presented to M. Freilich, a practicing Jew living in Antwerp. His answer on the podium of the Shalom Festival was spontaneous: ‘Respect for each other is the foundation’. He went on to explain that acceptance and wishing good to our neighbor are indispensable components in the grand concept of peace. “Several times a day we greet people with the word ‘shalom’ in our culture,” he emphasized “Shalom is a Biblical word and means an all-encompassing peace.”

In the middle of the Shalom festival, six Evangelical pastors of different nationalities were invited on stage to express their convictions on shalom-peace.



“With a spirit of connection between people of good will we gathered at the Groenplaats. Dialogue is pre-eminently the way to peace,” said André Gantman, member of the city council of Antwerp, writer, Jew and very involved in the Shalom Festival from the beginning.

We are a Jewish institution, but our door is open to any student who realizes that we are representing the values of Judaism,” said Charlotte Guntman, president of ORT-Belgium and co-organiser of the Shalom Festival.

Nick Vandeputte brought an encouraging message. The former chairman of the Belgian Coalition for Israel reassured the Jewish community of the many friends they have and the fact that worldwide, “many people are constantly praying for you.” Nick, who has helped Jewish people from Ukraine move to Israel since he was a teenager, together with his family, even when the borders were closed, realizes the responsibility of every Christian to love the Jewish people and practically stand by them in their difficult moments. “Total shalom-peace is the goal of God, expressed 329 times in the Bible,” the beginning of his speech.


The Shalom Festival is a groundbreaking initiative of the Belgian Coalition for Israel, organized by Koinonia, Christians for Israel, ‘Chrétiens Amis d’Israel’, iMove Belgium, Anet, the Jewish-Christian collaboration platform Alliance for Peace in the Middle East, ORT Belgium, Beautiful Israel, WIZO, ‘Joods Actueel’, B’nai B’rith Europe, Bne Akivah and the Forum of Jewish Organizations.

The Shalom Festival aims to bring Israel and the Jewish community in a positive light, builds a platform of contact between Jewish people, Evangelical Christians and the city, combats anti-Semitism and falsification of facts against the Jewish people.


“Shalom Festival is a miracle in itself, accomplishing what seemed impossible, bridging where there was a gap and reviving what seemed extinguished. The Shalom Festival surpassed all expectations and made a powerful statement in the city and the press. Shalom-peace is a priority and worth pursuing. Meeting each other, getting to know each other, eating together, dancing together removes prejudices and paves the way for true acceptance; it actually melts hearts together for the future.” Katia Van De Broeck, co-organizer and daily director of Koinonia.


The performances of Boogie Boy filled the crowded Groenplaats. The popular Flemish artist unfolded his Jewish roots for the third year during the Shalom Festival. Together with the gospel choir ETHIM, it reached thunderous apotheosis while singing the well-known Jewish song, ‘There is peace in our midst’. There was true peace between the Jewish and Evangelical communities who are the organisers of the event. A promising friendship that has matured with the years, was celebrated on the day.
The two bands were accompanied by the heavenly sounds of Hativka, sung by Michael Verschuren and the passionate dances of Brazilian, Rwandan, Indonesian and multicultural groups. They expressed in this way their support and love for Israel. Youth groups mixed with adults in the audience and on the dance floor throughout this very successful afternoon.


Shalom message of Evangelical pastors:

“I will bless whoever blesses you,” Kofi Akuoku, pastor of “Kingdom Faith Ministries,” read from the Bible from Genesis 12:3. “God gave that promise to the ancestor of the Jewish people, to reveal His faithfulness to them.” His statement was endorsed by the Ghanaian pastor from Ghent, Frank Owusu.

“This means that the Jewish community is a blessing to our city,” added the Brazilian Antonio Albino.

“Watch out for the anti-Semitic propaganda of the mainstream press” was the address to the public of the Cameroonian Simon Khan,  pastor of the ETHIM church in Antwerp, regarding biased information about Israel and the Jewish people.

“Nothing less than a big apology for the pain and inappropriate treatment in the past,” offered the Jewish community Leo Maeckelberghe, pastor of the Evangelical Church of Philadelphia in Hoboken-Antwerpen.


Shalom statements of volunteers:

“Fantastic organization! Beautiful atmosphere and lots of people! What a wonderful spirit of unity for the city!” Elaine Elliot, American missionary.

“Photographers and TV camera crew are fantastic and all volunteers are doing their best, thanks to God alone.” Ratna Susilo.

‘An unforgettable experience! The enthusiasm, joy, happiness and solidarity of this day will reverberate for a long time to come!’ Marijke Goethals, dancer.

“Bne Akivah really enjoyed it. The festival was hopeful, we are very grateful that we were able to participate!’ Naomi Trau, stand keeper.


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