Burgemeester Sharon Dijksma World Non-Violence Day 2021

Toespraak burgemeester Sharon Dijksma

Speech by Mayor Sharon Dijksma

Wittevrouwenstraat, Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Utrecht, 2 oktober 2021

Mr Ambassador Rawat, Professor doctor Bailey, Mr Gurnani, dearest and befriended representatives of the Indian community in the Netherlands, dear all,

Unfortunately, we cannot ask them personally, but how would Mahatma Gandhi - the symbol of non-violence - and Martin of Tours, Saint Martin - the patron saint of the city of Utrecht - view this world? Just imagine Mahatma and Martin sitting together today on a terrace, here at the Neude. Having a drink in a city that is cautiously re-emerging. What would they discuss at the table?

Of course, I also wonder how they would view each other. Two seemingly completely different men. Martin of Tours, a Roman soldier, who was trained to fight, to go out on the battlefield, armed with a razor-sharp sword to kill... How could he be a good man?

And what would Martin of Tours think of his tablemate? The lawyer with the glasses, few possessions, dressed in a simple loincloth, sitting cross-legged behind a spinning wheel. How can you win a battle with someone like that?  

Two men who, despite their differences, may perhaps get on very well together. Because they agree on many things. Like worrying together about the world of 2021. About the coronavirus crisis. We are vaccinating our way out of the pandemic at breakneck speed, but are the vaccines being distributed fairly across the world? Prosperity and access to education and health is not available to everyone either. And many places are marked by war or extreme violence - against groups, individuals and animals. Violence for political reasons, for religious reasons or simply because of who you are.

Maarten and Mahatma would see a world that is far from peaceful and non-violent...

Two men who, despite their differences, perhaps share more than we thought. That Mahatma Gandhi was actually a warrior. Not a warrior who fought for his own personal interests, but for those of his fellow men. For everyone for whom prosperity, health, education and equal treatment are not self-evident. For them he fought, he delivered a peaceful battle and in doing so he inspires us to this day.

And the soldier Maarten... he also turned out to have a peace-loving side. One cold winter day, riding on his horse, he saw a poor beggar sitting at the city gate, with no clothes. Maarten took his sword and cut his precious cloak in half, giving half to the poor beggar. That day he did not use his sword to take someone's life, but to save someone's life. The ultimate act of non-violence. With this heart-warming gesture he showed the beggar that everyone is worthy of kindness – whoever you are. And with that act of humanity, he tells us what you can achieve with a small, generous gesture. In doing so, he also inspires us to this day.

Two different men who share an important value: a peaceful solution is always possible. To end wars, to end poverty, to resolve differences of opinion. Something that is often not easy, because accepting that we are different and being able to live together despite those differences is often a long, bumpy road. In Utrecht, we work on this every day, and to be honest: some days it is easier than others. Fortunately, we feel supported by Mahatma and Martin. These men inspire us to adopt a broader view to people around us and remind us that a peaceful solution is always possible. So that not only today, but actually every day is Non-Violence Day.

I wish you a wonderful Non-Violence Day.

Thank you very much.