“We feel powerless, overwhelmed by all these horrific images and they just keep coming. We, but you are also watching… Therefore, please, do something!” With that message, fourteen students from GO! Royal Athenaeum Antwerp to the European Parliament in Brussels on Wednesday.
Following the war between Israel and Hamas, the students took to their pens because they are deeply affected by what is happening there.
The Atheneum is a very diverse school, with students from more than fifty nationalities. “And we all know children who live with war trauma,” they write. “We are not policy makers, we are still learning, but let us believe that the power of dialogue and democracy works. Let us feel that Europe respects and honors its values and also international law. Let us feel that it matters what we feel, even though we are still young.”
The students, together with director Karin Heremans, presented their letter to European Parliament Member Hilde Vautmans (Open Vld) and President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola. “The war in Israel and Palestine evokes strong emotions in them,” says Vautmans. “With their letter they send a clear and powerful message for peace and in return for polarization. Their statement is even more beautiful because the students all have a diverse background and of course because of the large Jewish community in Antwerp. I am grateful for their inspiring commitment.”
Heremans is also proud of what her students have done. “As a school, we strive for living together in harmony and shared common values,” says Heremans. “In all conflicts, including those in Israel and Palestine, we teach our students not to take any side. “To stay in the middle as much as possible and to prevent radicalization and polarization.”
Read the letter that the students read in the European Parliament here
Dear President of the European Parliament, Dear Mrs Metsola,
Honorable Members of Parliament,
On Monday, October 9, we held a minute’s silence on the playground for all citizens who had fallen victim during a monstrous weekend;
We do this often, in the event of an attack, a natural disaster, anywhere in the world. We, the students of GO! Royal Athenaeum in Antwerp. We try to connect every day in our diversity. Because yes, we are all children with roots worldwide. And unfortunately, we all know children who live with war trauma.
Dear people, the silence after October 9 continues… and it has become deafening. We see thousands of people suffering every day, traumatized children, so many torn families, scared people… and we think we can speak for many young people in Flanders, Belgium, Europe… and worldwide.
We feel powerless, overwhelmed by all those horrific images and they just keep coming. We, but you are also watching… so please do something!
Help them, help the children! Naturally, as peace-loving young people, we wish for a ceasefire, preferably as soon as possible. At the very least, we demand a humanitarian pause so that people can reach safety, medicines, food and water can enter and doctors can return to their work.
We are not policy makers, we are still learning, but let us believe that the power of dialogue and democracy works, let us feel that Europe respects and honors its values and also international law, let us feel that it matters what we feel , even though we are still young.
Speak for us, speak loud and clear: negotiate a long-term peace and Never Again!
The students of GO! Royal Athenaeum Antwerp