Commemoration for Van Gogh calls for unity
2 November 2005
AMSTERDAM — “We must not abandon each other,” Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende told a gathering in Amsterdam on Wednesday morning to commemorate filmmaker Theo van Gogh.
Theo van Gogh (1957-2004)
“Law is the basis, but society requires more: everyone’s effort is necessary to make clear that violence is not the answer and discrimination with not help the Netherlands move forward,” Balkenende said.
He was one of four speakers at the commemoration on the Linnaeusstraat in the east of Amsterdam to mark the murder of Van Gogh on the street a year ago. The gathering was the first of several commemorations planned for Wednesday.
The murder on 2 November 2004 was carried out by Amsterdam-Moroccan Mohammed B., who was angered by Van Gogh’s criticism of aspects of Islam. The assassination shocked the nation and provoked tit-for-tat burnings of Muslim and Christian buildings in other cities. There were no such arson attacks in Amsterdam.
Balkenende told the estimated crowd of 500 that terrible things can happen “even within the constitutional state”. “The murder is engraved on our memories”, he said, “and goes against everything that is dear to us in the Netherlands.”
Referring to the grief of Van Gogh’s relatives, the prime minister described the filmmaker’s death as a “loss that touches our society deeply”.
He told the audience that threats to people because of their beliefs or statements were unacceptable, and he called on all elements of society to work together in the battle against terrorism. “We must not allow ourselves to be driven apart by people who write [their message] in blood,” Balkenende said.
“Away with fear, choose hope; for a life in freedom,” Amsterdam Mayor Job Cohen said during his address to the crowd.
Cohen emphasised that the commemorations for Van Gogh would be pointless if lessons were not learned. He called on everyone to live in freedom, without fear. “We have to be free to believe what we want, to speak our opinion and to go where we please; free from fear,” he said.
The gathering was also addressed by the chairperson of the local district council and a local resident who heard the shots that killed Van Gogh. She has made a documentary outlining her hope the killing with bring people together.
[Copyright Expatica News + ANP 2005]
Subject: Dutch news