Speech 22/03: 'Our country's voice is humanity'

Sire, Your Majesty,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Family and friends,

Five years ago, the unthinkable happened. Five years ago, evil struck. Three devastating explosions. Two at our national airport. One in a met car in Maelbeek.

In a time span of 1 hour and 13 minutes, 32 innocent people were taken from our midst. More than 340 people were seriously injured.  And many more lives were disrupted forever.

Partners, brothers, sisters. Fathers and mothers. Daughters and sons. On their way to work, looking forward to their holidays, just checked in to fly back home.

Five years later, the walls have been rebuilt, roofs have been repaired and much of the material damage is no longer visible. But the survivors, next of kin and first responders still suffer from the damage.

There are the scars. The pain and the emptiness. The loss. As the French poet Alphonse de Lamartine wrote: "Un seul être vous manque, et tout est dépeuplé."

We are here together today to remember the victims of terror, to express our solidarity with survivors, family and friends, expressing our gratitude to all who were ready to offer assistance.

But also to carry the emptiness and the loss together, as we have done for the past five years - with trial and error. By speaking their names and being connected to each other in silence.

We are also here to express that nothing is worth more than a human life. That there is no greater sin, no greater cruelty, than wiping out one's future, to harm and destroy a human life.


The attacks not only had a heavy human toll. They were also an attack on our freedom, on our democracy, our tolerance, our light-heartedness and our hope, on our carefree way of life.

The emotions that the attacks stirred, - then but also now - remain intense.

Yet we know one thing for sure.

The cruelty and horror of violence must never get a hold of us. Hate must never change who we are - as a person and as a country.

All of our security forces stand vigilant. The Department of Justice is doing its work. They are more ready than ever. This is important.

But deep down we know that there is only one answer to cruelty ripping people apart. And that answer is "unity." Being close to each other. Becoming more human together. By helping to carry each other's pain, making the void livable, being resilient together. Even if it is with a heart which is heavier than ever before.

It is by supporting each other and looking into each other's eyes, by staying connected, that we can see the good, in each other and in our society.

The corona crisis, which we are going through as a country and as a world today, reminds us all the more how much we value this human proximity. An unexpected visit, a friendly smile, a kiss on the cheek. The most valuable thing in life is often another person.

Embracing that humanity. This is our country's voice. It is our best response to inhumanity, to the pointlessness and destructive power of hate and terror.

This humanity is still a challenge for governments. To provide support. To be nearby. When this was insufficient at times, this must improve. We must not leave anyone behind.


Your Majesties,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear family and friends,

This is the task that lies ahead of us: from the depths of our loss, from the injustice of suffering that has been inflicted on so many families, to still find the strength to cherish, be gentle, show sincerity.

If we succeed in doing this, to turn closeness, empathy and love into our response to hate, then we will have won.

I would like to conclude with the words of the American writer Irving Washington - and I quote:

 “There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.”

I strongly believe this can be our only answer.

Unspeakable love.