Safe Christmas Holidays!

25 December 2015

Safe Christmas Holidays!

Foto: Peter Frischmuth/Hollandse Hoogte

On Christmas Eve a clergyman wrote in one of our national newspapers that over the period leading up to the holiday the churches had been fuller than in other years, because people had been seeking, at this time, a safe place to go. Just like in the bible story, I thought, when Mary and Joseph, having been turned away from the inn (full is full!), had to go and look for a stable; or like the refugees who have arrived at last in emergency accommodation, and even there don't always feel safe. Amongst all the violence in the world, the longing for security is indeed on the rise. That so many people in search of a feeling of security go to a place of worship demonstrates that you don't have to immediately associate security with riot cops or soldiers with drawn guns. Security has to go outwards from within, when you don't feel threatened but remain open to others, even if, amongst the billions of people on earth, there are some who undermine our safety. The Christmas message that 'love overcomes all' is more important than ever in these turbulent times.

In politics the reaction to the terror has been totally predictable: more power for the state to look into our personal data, more money for defence, for the Justice Ministry, and for the secret services. If you tell a politician that this isn't the only correct reaction, not only are you seen by politicians as a fool, few other people understand what you mean either.

It's just the same in Brussels as on the national level. After every attack we get another proposal from the European Commission: a European intelligence unit at Europol; centralised collection of personal data; or improved guarding of the external borders with direct screening of refugees for any security threat. These are all proposals which have come from Brussels during the last few months and which the member states have gladly embraced.

I'm not naïve: state services which guard our security are necessary. I also see the danger, however, in sacrificing more and more of our personal freedoms for the sake of that security. That could lead to a spiral of violence in which the violence of the state itself is answered by ever more refined methods of terror. If planes no longer do the trick, trains or shopping malls are blown up.

The only real answer to insecurity is to show that no terrorist can take away our respect for each other's human dignity and equality, or the love and solidarity we feel for other people. However appalling may be the pictures we see of the atrocities in the Middle East or in Paris, it makes no sense at all to allow these principles to be eroded. Precisely by showing that we remain open to each other, we will undermine these extremists. Dropping bombs is no help in this, however. Taking initiatives to bring the warring parties in countries such as Syria and Iraq together around the negotiating table would be more in line with these principles. Smashing town hall windows to protest against a new centre for asylum seekers leads only to more hate. Standing up for the rights of refugees and making contact with people who can share their experiences of their own insecurity with you takes the wind out of the terrorists' sails and increases the feelings of safety of all of us.

I wish you all a safe Christmas holiday. In this we should all cherish love as our most important weapon against insecurity in the world.

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