Utrecht, 22nd of January 2018
The City of Martin
Who talks about compassion in Utrecht, cannot avoid our patron saint Martin of Tours. It was him who –in the fourth century after Christ– saw a beggar in front of the city gates of the French Amiens. What he did back then, we remember and celebrate every year on November 11. Affected by the fate of this pour man Martin draws his sword, cuts his costly mantle in two parts, and gives the beggar one half of his garment. By handing over a piece of fabric, he reaches out to someone who is literally and figuratively in need of warmth. He showed compassion.
Utrecht and Martin belong to each other. Surely, Utrecht is a city where we share. For centuries. Together. Of course, discrepancies do exist. Cultural differences. Pour and rich.
In Utrecht practically all religious communities are represented. Here, everyone can find a community to feel at home without anger. And these communities can live side by side, live with each other, and can work together.
Diversity adds colour to our city. And at the same time we respect each other's differences. But above all, we share –with all our differences– a joint interest: creating a place where everyone feels at home.
The Flag of Compassion that I received on behalf of the city on January 22 2018 during In Vrijheid Verbonden, is in the first place a beautiful artwork. It is a gift for the almost 350.000 citizens of Utrecht.
However, the Flag of Compassion means much more to me than just an artistic expression. The Flag embodies that what Utrecht already is for centuries: a home where everyone, with respect for each other's differences, can live alongside and with each other. A place that we share together. A city where people show interest in each other. Like our patron saint Martin of Tours who cared for his fellow human being, gave him some warmth, showed his compassion for another being.
And in this way he showed himself as a human.
The citizens of Utrecht are honoured with the Flag of Compassion. The Flag does not make Utrecht another city, it does not make us better people. Though the waving and undulating golden yellow bar on a white surface does (and I hope this will happen frequently in our city) remind us again and again that we should be, want to be and are –I am convinced of that –also deep in ourselves: good for each other. With attention for another being. With compassion for our fellow human beings.
The Flag of Compassion adds a bit of colour to Utrecht and his citizens.
Jan van Zanen
Major of Utrecht, The Netherlands
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Jan van Zanen: The city of Martin