ARNHEM – During the New Year’s reception in the crowded Eusebiuskerk, Mayor Ahmed Marcouch compared his fellow citizens to the repaired tower: “Standing proudly after all the damage” he told his audience of nine hundred people. He described how young Arnhem people were thrown back on themselves when schools closed and how parents became scared of the war in Ukraine: “People approach me in the street and ask where the bunkers are in Arnhem if they have to escape.”
If the government does not organize enough housing, the residents will argue about the lack, notes the mayor, who would rather see Arnhem’s population shoulder to shoulder in solidarity than fight for scarcity. Marcouch: “Let’s fully realize that it is insecurity that causes selfishness, mutual envy, racism and discrimination,” he says, referring to the national government’s campaign in which Marieke gets a home and Samira doesn’t.
He contrasts mutual competition with social security and polarization with solidarity, he says in a room full of administrators, entrepreneurs, youth workers and other professionals: “Let’s make 2023 the year of solidarity.” Solidarity is taught to the new generation of citizens from day one, from hour to hour, through education in the education district; starting in the neglected neighborhoods of Arnhem-Oost, with parents, teachers, youth workers, street coaches, local police officers and other educators in the home, at school and on the street.
But it is not possible with benefits, raising children to become honest, happy citizens is only possible if the national government offers solid ground under their feet in the form of practical social security, argues Marcouch in the Church of Eusebius. So normal people with normal jobs can also live normally from what they earn. “Dear drivers in the Netherlands, come now; the first challenge of 2023 lies before your feet in the national government’, he concludes for Phion, Orkest van Gelderland and Overijssel, the concert starts with Johan Strauss’s waltz and the second-year dance students at roc Rijn IJssel College close with ‘Urban Arnhem’.
ARNHEM – On Thursday 12 January, Arnhem Municipality’s New Year’s reception took place in the Eusebius Church. Below is the New Year’s speech of Mayor Ahmed Marcouch
Thank you for being here, in our Eusebiuskerk, a model of resilience.
The strength that we also see in the Arnhem people.
Welcome on behalf of our city council.
We are gathered between heaven and earth, in the great realization that beneath our feet awaits the eternity of the past, and above us the tower points to an infinite future.
On the horizon we see the Eusebius Tower from afar, a sign of homecoming as we approach Arnhem. Standing proud after all the damage. Like the Arnhems.
It’s okay, in here with all of us. But outside, unfortunately, our country is in the harsh weather that tests our courage. In poor neighborhoods like those in Arnhem-East it had been buffalo for years, but since corona we have seen all the more how fear crept into the houses.
Many young people found themselves thrown back on themselves by closed schools, bleak about their future.
In their parents, they see the fear of the unimaginably rising prices of energy and food since the war in Ukraine.
Many fear for their safety, people turn to the street and ask where the bunkers are in Arnhem.
They fear for their children’s future, whether they will later be able to get food at an affordable price, clean water and enough energy.
But at the same time, we are the people who remain standing as the Eusebius Tower.
If we want to survive new attempts from 2022 in 2023, we need good state institutions that provide good education and fair jobs; for incomes that people can live on instead of worrying about benefits. Who is catching up with the housing shortage, with or without corporations; so that Marieke and Fatima don’t argue: ‘why does Samira get a house and Marieke not?’
I feel the sadness of Marieke being forgotten, as I used to feel as a boy in class with the Bible story of the Prodigal Son. He was given a party by his father when he came home with no money. The faithful eldest son then became jealous and angry: why didn’t he have a party? He who was always there!
I can well imagine how selfishness, mutual envy, racism and discrimination lurk in times of scarcity. But let us be aware that it is the precariousness of existence that causes this.
We gain certainty by standing shoulder to shoulder and lifting each other up. Polarization will not get rid of pandemics and wars, and selfishness will not save our climate. But with solidarity, we give our rising generation a future. So when we leave here later, let’s go back to the city and practice solidarity.
To prove ourselves as administrators, entrepreneurs and residents. As teachers, artists, youth workers and other professionals.
Let’s make 2023 the year of solidarity.
Right now, more than ever. Now it is storming and the tide is approaching. Emergency aid and supplements are like sandbags against the hole in the dike. Humiliating for those who work against the rocks and still lack salary every month. Let’s build bridges and build locks.
Our fear of existence disappears when social security comes. That’s how it will be for sure. This is how we flourish. Not in combat situations. This is how civilization is born.
I am extremely proud of how in Arnhem we all take care of the Ukrainians – they are here too – and other refugees.
Solidarity can be learned. From our parents.
And in Arnhem, as an educational district, we surround the parents with all educators, both teachers and youth workers and both street coaches and community police officers.
Primarily to keep children away from criminals. Meanwhile, we are next level: the educational district becomes the educational space for a new generation that grows up to be responsible citizens. We started in the neighborhoods with the greatest need: in addition to Malburgen, Geitenkamp and Klarendal, also Arnhemse Broek and Presikhaaf – all in Arnhem-East.
In the school subject of citizenship studies, solidarity is now the aim of the class, I was at Olympus College and experienced how the practical classes make students happy: Being meaningful by organizing food, clothes and energy for others.
But you know, solidarity is not possible without security of existence. Fear and stress paralyze everything. Look at the tiles here under our feet in the Church of Eusebius. Suppose they were wobbly floating ice flakes – then it becomes impossible to sit, walk and jump, let alone dance together and lift each other up. Social Security is to our lives what the floor is to the church.
Pay for work, that’s what we need first here in Arnhem; Normal people with normal jobs should be able to live on that. Dear drivers in the Netherlands, come on; The first challenge in these trials lies before you.
Come to work for a happy new year!