Memorial service for tsunami victims
17 January 2005, BRUSSELS – Members of all religions and beliefs have joined the Belgian royal family to pay their respects to the victims of the Indian Ocean tsunamis.
17 January 2005
BRUSSELS – Members of all religions and beliefs have joined the Belgian royal family to pay their respects to the victims of the Indian Ocean tsunamis.
There had been some criticism before the service at Saints Michel et Gudule Cathedral about its religious nature.
However, on Saturday evening non-religious and non-Catholic leaders attended.
Members of the Belgian family, who had just returned from the funeral of Princess Josephine-Charlotte of Luxembourg, sat at the front, followed by the families of Rita Adriaenssens and the couple Hellemans-Van Rompay, Belgians who died in the disaster.
A representative of Belgian Buddhism was among the many religious groups present.
Members of the crisis centre for overseas affairs also attended the service, along with a Red Cross delegation and a number of other charities.
The regional Minister Presidents and representatives of the military and judiciary also attended the service, as well as most of Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt’s cabinet.
Verhofstadt told those present he was lucky to have had little experience of losing loved ones.
"The tragedy of 26 December reminds us the extent to which that luck can be fragile," he said. "In the face of death, whether we believe in Jesus, Yahveh, Allah, or whether we are buddhists or hindus, atheists or agnostic, we are all equal."
He said the tsunami had been proof that despite the progress of technology nature was uncontrollable. The solidarity shown towards all the victims and the devastated communities had been a source of joy, he added.
"We did fear that the 21st century after 11 September would become a century of unprecedented division. The disaster of 26 December may create an era of unprecedented unity," he said.
Cardinal Danneels told the congregation he hoped the emotions stirred up by the disaster would lead to long-term development aid, suggesting it was time Belgium committed 0.7 percent of its gross national product.
Afterwards, half an hour was devoted to allow the royal family, the cardinal and Verhofstadt to speak to the families of the victims.
Symbolically, during a period of silence, children from two of Brussels most multicultural schools, Saint-Roch and Maria Boodschap, placed white roses and candles at the centre of the cathedral.
[Copyright Expatica 2005]
Subject: Belgian news