CELEBRATE the roots of our freedom!
• Commemorating The Erasmus Year, the Year of the Bible, the Modern Devotion Celebration and Europe Day •
(A celebration open for all)
Amsterdam has for centuries been a city of freedom. NYTimes writer, Russell Shorto, calls it the most liberal city in the world. This year we celebrate 71 years since the end of the last occupation, by Nazi Germany. Two centuries ago the city celebrated the end of the Napoleonic occupation.
A visual presentation by Jeff Fountain and Kathia Reynders of the Schuman Centre related how Amsterdam over the centuries had welcomed Jews from Iberia, Walloons and Hugenots from Belgium and France, the Pilgrim Fathers and other non-conformists from England, philosophers like Descartes and Comenius… and many more refugees and migrants. This expansion of Amsterdam’s population led into the Golden Age, fostered by William of Orange’s commitment to religious freedom and freedom of conscience. Read more…
What were the deeper roots of Amsterdam’s freedoms? Mink de Vries told of the impact of the Modern Devotion movement on the city (and the whole country) in the 15th and 16th centuries, introducing concepts of equality, respect, tolerance and freedom; how Erasmus, schooled in this movement, spread these ideas further, shaping the thinking and actions of William of Orange and thus the Dutch Revolt against Spain, and finally the establishment of the Dutch republic. Read more…
The roots go even further back. Vishal Mangalwadi, internatonal speaker and author from India, shared about ‘The Book of freedoms’ which has inspired liberation and emancipation through the ages, producing radically different ideas than those which shaped his own Asian culture. Read more…
Poet, pastor and pioneer Gerard Kelly brought the first of several meditations on the paradox of freedom:
TRUE FREEDOM IS FREEDOM IN RELATIONSHIP, NOT FREEDOM FROM RELATIONSHIP. THIS IS A KEY ASPECT OF THE BIBLICAL ACCOUNT OF HUMAN FREEDOM.
Drawn by the cords of kindness, I bind myself today
To be tied and tethered to the tender care
Of the one who declares me free…
Interspersed with music from an African choir from city churches, and a jazz combo (the music of freedom), the programme then focused on the last year of World War Two, and the hunger-winter when many Amsterdammers died. The Zuiderkerk itself was used as an emergency mortuary for bodies which could not be buried due to the frozen ground. This brought the reality of the loss of freedom close to us all.
When the guns finally fell silent, Europe was a ravaged, broken place. Most of Amsterdam’s Jews had been taken away to the gas chambers. Bitterness, mistrust, hatred, fear and uncertainty reigned. How could Europe be healed? Who really won the peace? And what is significant about May 9 that we call it ‘Europe Day’?
Jeff Fountain reflected on the little-known story of Robert Schuman and the spiritual roots of the European Union beginning with what he calls ‘the defining moment of post-war Europe, on May 9, 1950’ – a story that has affected us all. Read more…
Today, our freedoms are under threat from within and from without. What are these threats and how can we respond in Christian love and truth? An international panel of speakers for the forum which began that evening discussed issues to be addressed in more depth over the following 24 hours.
The celebration closed with the singing of a hymn to the tune Ode to Joy, the European Anthem.