Sunday, December 17   Sign in or Register
Evangelical Focus
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google +
  • Instagram
  • Soundcloud

Newsletter, sign up to receive all our News by email.

'... Christian'
I would define myself as...



Stories from Parc Maximilien (II)

“Refugee trends” and beauty contests

The Belgian federal government asks for the evacuation of the Maximilien Parc camp. Politicians accuse each other of permissiveness. Volunteer say alternative offered by the administration is an “excuse to say they are doing something”.

AUTHOR Joëlle Philippe BRUSSELS 22 SEPTEMBER 2015 10:08 h GMT+1
maximilien park, refugees, br A view of the entrance of the Maximilien park camp. During the day it is open to everyone. The sign says: “We accept no donations anymore for now. Please follow our demands posted on Facebook. Thank you”. / J. Philippe

“Everybody is now humanitarian”, complained the Deputy Prime Minister of Belgium Alexander De Croo in an interview for Le Soir, the main francophone newspaper, on Sunday 13 September.

“Let’s see who gives more”, as he alluded to the post of the minister of education on her blog, calling for solidarity, to the offerings of a Flemish organization to give work to the refugees and of course, to the amount of volunteers flooding on Parc Maximilien.

Maybe there is some truth in the reproaches of Mr. De Croo; everybody seems to be showing off on social media about what they have been doing for the asylum seekers.


A group of asylum seekers resting at mid-day. Behind them the slogan says: “Without papers and refugees are the same: a problem of papers”. / J. Philippe

In addition, the crisis is the perfect political opportunity to criticise the adversary. Théo Francken, the Secretary of State for Migration, accuses the refugee camp of being a “stronghold for left-wing activists” who “manipulate refugees for their political gain”.

Mr. Francken, probably feeling attacked on several fronts, is also in an open (verbal) conflict with the mayor of Brussels, Yvan Mayeur whom he accuses of looking away and of permissiveness. Mr. Mayeur, socialist, accuses the right-wing Federal Government of not doing its job.

The Belgian Prime Minister, Charles Michel, was worried about the dimension of the conflict and summoned them both for dialogue last week.



Mr. De Croo explained in the same interview that the government is actually doing something: “If we only open 250 files a day it is because that is our maximum capacity to do our job well”. This has been said by other representatives in the government, especially by Mr. Francken, who was interviewed by Le Soir the next weekend, Sunday 20 September. After the file is open, the asylum seekers are relocated and taken in charge, although they still often have to wait for some days until they are hosted.


The main “street” of the Maximilien park camp. There is a volunteer welcome desk, a legal “department” and a translation desk. / J. Philippe

The government is a bit ashamed of what is going on in Parc Maximilien. “It looks more like a market or a music festival”, said Mr. De Croo and he deplored the fact that the refugees refused to sleep in the space offered in a WTC tower.

Five hundred people can be hosted there but apparently they were only allowed to go during the night. Another objection was the fact that there were no toilets and no meals served. Asylum seekers prefer to stay in the park where there are activities, a football pitch, and, yes, it looks like a market rather than a dormitory.

Last week, however, it rained. As the tents were sinking deep into the mud, some refugees decided to get into the WTC tower, which is now open day and night, has showers and meals are served.

But the tower is far from being full. Privacy is another reason: the tents provide individual hosting. Families sleep together in big tents, and single men have their own. “We have to realize that they often come from different cultures, background and even religion”, says Maryam, a volunteer who speaks Arabic. “They do not want to share their intimacy with others”.

In any case, Mr. De Croo was adamant: when an alternative is provided, it should not be refused and he pointed at Mr. Mayeur.

“The city Council is responsible for public order”, said Mr. De Croo. “It is not worthy of a European capital, the camp should be evacuated”.

Mr. Francken, for his part, has been repeating the same over and over: they are looking for more places to receive people, although so far only the WTC tower has been opened and this past weekend several families have arrived to the camp.



Max, one of the main responsible on the camp now, seems to agree with Mr. De Croo. They simply have different ideas on how the camp should be evacuated. Max is really professional in his management tasks and these past days he has been trying to put trained people in logistics positions while he has taken almost all the external communication tasks: “It is my third refugee camp this year; I have been in Palestine twice”. In his “normal” life he works as a spokesperson, which explains his ability to answer in length to my questions.

For him, the WTC tower is not a solution, because the conditions are not good enough and insists on the fact that the government is not listening to them. “The WTC is an excuse to say they are doing something”.


: A volunteer translator being interviewed by a Belgian reporter. The media have general been supportive of the camp. / J. Philippe

Some media (and people on social media) start to say that the camp is not evacuated because now it is also hosting homeless people and migrants who could not apply for asylum, since they come from “safe” countries and would be considered as economic migrants.

Max concedes that it is hard to make the difference between migrants and refugees. “The fact is they are here, and we need to take care of them”, but “in two weeks we should not be here anymore”. Max talks of practical reasons: “We have no more space to safely receive more refugees; there should be room between tents! And since the camp is not legal, there is no insurance for any of the volunteers. What if an accident happens?”

“We have invited Francken to come to the camp” says Yohan, a young guy in his thirties with a beard who is from the lobbying group, “he said ok”. That was days ago. He laughs bitterly and adds: “He is waiting for a political opportunity”.

Read the first article of this series: “Before winter starts”




    If you want to comment, or


YOUR ARE AT: - - “Refugee trends” and beauty contests
Michael Schluter: Relationships are the key to build Europe Michael Schluter: Relationships are the key to build Europe

The economist summarises the manifesto “Confederal Europe: Strong Nations, Strong Union” and explains why personal relationships should be at the centre of our economy, education and democracy. 

Gary Wilkerson: The Bible, the Holy Spirit and the Reformation Gary Wilkerson: The Bible, the Holy Spirit and the Reformation

Pastor Gary Wilkerson talks about what all evangelical Christians can learn from the Protestant Reformation and underlines the need for more churches with both a sound doctrine and obedience to the Holy Spirit.

Lindsay Brown: Islam and the Gospel in Europe Lindsay Brown: Islam and the Gospel in Europe

Is the arrival of thousands of Muslims to Europe a threat to Christianity? What is the growth of evangelical churches in Eastern and Southern Europe? An interview with theologian and Lausanne Movement representative Lindsay Brown.

Efraim Tendero: Relationship with Roman Catholicism and other current issues Efraim Tendero: Relationship with Roman Catholicism and other current issues

The World Evangelical Alliance Secretary General participated in the Italian Evangelical Alliance assembly (Rome, 8-9 April). In this interview with Evangelical Focus, Bp Tendero talks about the need to listen to local churches and to face challenges like the refugee crisis and climate change. 

Evi Rodemann: Youth and mission Evi Rodemann: Youth and mission

“We want to see the youth not just being equipped, but also being multipliers”, Evi Rodemann director of Mission-Net. The European Congress took place in Germany from December 28 to January 2.

Greg Pritchard: European Leadership Forum Greg Pritchard: European Leadership Forum

Pritchard explains the vision of ELF, comments on the 2015 event in Poland and reflects on what it means to have an "evangelical identity".

Pablo Martinez comments on Evangelical Focus’ launch Pablo Martinez comments on Evangelical Focus’ launch

Author and international speaker Dr Pablo Martínez discusses the main challenges in Europe nowadays and hopes Evangelical Focus will be a useful tool to help build bridges between churches and society.

Lausanne younger leaders gathering in Budapest Lausanne younger leaders gathering in Budapest

About 70 people from European countries met at the Younger Leaders Gen gathering in Hungary (19-22 October) to discuss the challenges of the church in the continent and build partnerships. Photos: Evi Rodemann and Jari Sippola.

I am not on sale I am not on sale

Young Christians gathered at Madrid’s central square Sol to denounce human trafficking. A flashmob highlighted the work of three evangelical NGOs which support women who escape sexual slavery in Spain.

Stamps to commemorate the Reformation Stamps to commemorate the Reformation

Poland, Lithuania, Namibia and Brazil are some of the countries that have issued special stamps on the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 theses.

‘Reconciliation’ in the Basque Country ‘Reconciliation’ in the Basque Country

Bilbao hosted the Spanish Evangelical Alliance's annual meeting (assembly). Politicians, professors and evangelical representatives shared views on social reconciliation. The theme was also analysed from a theological perspective and in workshops. 

The Progress of Europe, deeply connected to Bible The Progress of Europe, deeply connected to Bible

Indian author Vishal Mangalwadi spoke about how the biblical worldview shaped the West. 300 professionals attended annual GBG meeting on faith and work in Cullera (Spain). Photos: J.P. Serrano, S. Vera.

Impressions of Lausanne's #ylg2016 Impressions of Lausanne's #ylg2016

Around 1,000 young Christian leaders from 150 countries are participating in the 2016 Lausanne Younger Leaders Gathering, to reflect on global mission.

How does an effective leader decide when to say “no” to something? How does an effective leader decide when to say “no” to something?

Ramez Attallah of the Bible Society Egypt answers the question. 

Creation Care and the Gospel, in France Creation Care and the Gospel, in France

The conference drew about 90 delegates from across Europe. Scientists, theologians, activists reflected together on the theme “God’s Word and God’s World”.

“It is inconsistent to say we love the Creator while we destroy His creation” “It is inconsistent to say we love the Creator while we destroy His creation”

In creation care, “we need more people who lead by example”, says well-known Brazilian politician and activist Marina Silva. 

Human traffickers recruit girls and boys online Human traffickers recruit girls and boys online

The new video of the European Freedom Network addresses the dangers of social media. 

Philip Yancey interview Philip Yancey interview

An 8-minute interview with Philip Yancey on the role of Christians in a secularised society. Recorded in Madrid, September 2016.

An interview with Prof. John Lennox An interview with Prof. John Lennox

New atheism, the definition of "faith", Christianity in Europe, the role of the Bible in mission, and the need to listen more. An exclusive interview recorded at "Forum Apologética" (Tarragona, Spain) in May 2016.

Follow us on Soundcloud
Follow us on YouTube

EVANGELICAL FOCUS belongs to Areópago Protestante, linked to the Spanish Evangelical Alliance (AEE). AEE is member of the European
Evangelical Alliance and World Evangelical Alliance.

Opinions expressed are those of their respective contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of Evangelical Focus.