Expatica news

International attention for mass wedding

21 March 2007

BRUSSELS – The mass wedding planned for tonight in Sint-Niklaas has attracted the attention of the world press. Dutch, French and British media, and even Arabic television station Al-Jazeera are reporting on the festivities as 600 couple prepare to be married by black municipal official Wouter Van Bellingen, the Standaard reports.

The event was planned as part of Europe’s action week against racism. Three couples refused to be married by Van Bellingen earlier this year because he is black.

“A mass wedding is an impressive picture for a television maker,” says Alan Fisher, journalist for Al-Jazeera, who interviewed Van Bellingen on Tuesday.

Van Bellingen was also interviewed by Dutch broadcaster NOS, French newspaper Libération, the German ARD, the British BBC and international press agency the Associated Press.

This is the second wave of international media attention for Van Bellingen since the commotion began in January. A journalist from the Dutch newspaper the Algemeen Dagblad wants to know how far the news in January travelled.

Van Bellingen no longer bothers to mention the coverage in the Belgian, Dutch and French papers. He only drops the eye-catching names: The Observer, The Guardian and The Washington Post, and shows a copy of El Comercio. “I was front page news in the most important paper in Peru. That’s when I realised that this story had really travelled far.”

Even though 600 couples will be saying no to racism tonight, some fear that the whole incident makes it look to the rest of the world that Flanders is an intolerant place. Alan Fisher doesn’t think there is anything to worry about: “What is the negative attitude from three couples compared to the positive signal from 600?”

[Copyright Expatica News 2007]

Subject: Belgian news