Tag Archives: belgium

(Please share!!) The case of Parwais Sangari, or how The Belgian state is just barbaric sometimes!!!

Parwais Sangari is a 20 year old boy from Afghanistan who has been here in Belgium for years. He arrived here as a refugee after enduring terrible things in which his father was murdered, and got permission to stay here because of his age (16 year). He learned our language, went to school and got a job as a welder (a job for which good craftsmen are hard to find and of which we have a shortage right now), and found a new family with some friendly Flemish people who were trying to adopt him and a girlfriend. He became perfectly adapted!

When he was threatened to be sent back, people did petitions for him and more, but our secretary of state Maggie De Block ignored them completely, even though More than 8000 signatures were brought to her in a manifestation.

Even though it’s a fact that grave mistakes have been made in his file he has been sent back without any mercy. Yesterday morning, Parwais Sangari was send back to Afghanistan by the Belgian government. He has been put on a plane and sent back to Afghanistan without having anything there. So right now he’s back in Kabul, and he has no money, no family and no passport, nothing at all. He only has political enemies trying to kill him over there, and maybe the clothes he’s wearing. He’s not just sent back but turned into a homeless person who’s in danger of being killed! This is barbaric and outrageous!!!

Some Dutch en Belgian journalists followed him and confirmed the serious problems he’s in. Now the Belgians hear the real story behind the deportations, and some of us are willing to take action, and tomorrow there will be another manifestation in Brussels.

But this story has to be heard by the whole world, to increase pressure on our secretary of state Maggie De Block, who is responsible for his deportation, and who is doing her job, on which a lot of lives depend, without taking much responsibility!If you can, find a journalist in your own country who’s willing to cover this story. We need your help! Read more about it here on the blog of Bleri Lleshi. And this is just a case that gets attention, There are much more people like this who have received this treatment, Parwais is just the tip of the horrible iceberg!!!

If there’s nothing else you can do, please pray for Parwais Sangari and all human beings in similar situations if you’re a praying human being. And try to connect to people who know more about this kind of stuff, it’s happening everywhere.

(thanks to good people Bleri Llesli, Saskia van Nieuwenhove on Fb and to Isfried and Sophie from our Belgian Catholic Worker for keeping me informed, and for being part of the action!!!)



The lost psalters interview (from August ’11, Kortrijk)

Last August the psalters, one of the most remarkable, unique and impressing band of the planet, were in Belgium to play their amazing music, and they did a show in Kortrijk. I was happy to be the opening act, with just a crappy guitar as a substitute backing band, but I actually hardly remember anything of that, since the psalters concert itself that came after my set was much, much more impressing. (one bootlegged song of my own set, called ‘Ellulian glasses’ can be found here)

As was their new CD ‘carry the bones’, which was for me the best CD of 2011! You can mail order it through their site now btw. Do it, you won’t regret it! The real CD has a very cool package and does sound lots and lots better than mp3’s of it at 128 bpm.

I also did a very interesting interview that night for a Flemish website with the mysterious ‘Captain Napkins’, as the CD booklets call him), one of the two leading forces behind the band. Browsing through my old files I found the English version again today, and I found it way too interesting to not share it with the world. Sharing is what makes us humans…

So here it is (drum roll on oil barrel), the psalters interview from Kortrijk, Belgium on 8/23/2011, done by myself (Bram), originally for cultuurshock.net (read the shorter Dutch version here!)

Bram: So this is your second time in Belgium. please tell us about the first time you were here:

Captain Napkins: Well, the fist time here in Belgium we got to play in Antwerp. We were invited by some cool folks to stay in a squat-house, that used to be a customs building on the bay. It was an amazing experience to stay in there, and then on top of that we played a show in a squat bar (the Scheld’apen) The interesting thing was that Antwerp had just kicked a lot of gypsies out of the city and given them some land right next to the bar to camp out, so when we were there was a couple of acres full of gypsies and then there was anarchists, punks and different folks all together. It just made for an amazing night.

There was a big tree-house right behind the bar, a huge tree-house even, like a real house in a tree, And there was lots of good beer. It was one of our favorite shows that we have ever done, very intense, The place was packed. Yes, we loved it! We absolutely loved Belgium!

Bram: What’s the difference between playing your music in Europe and playing it in america?

Captain Napkins: Sometimes it overlaps, you know: There are places in America that we’ve played that remind me a lot of some places that we’ve played in Europe. But I guess as a generalization, I would say more consistently people in Europe take what we’re doing much more seriously, like they think of us more a like we’re trying to be ourselves: as an organization, as a community, as a movement of combining worshop and justice, and ehm, fighting the empires that we humans create. In America, I think a lot of venues and places see all of that as just a gimmick, and at the end of the day we’re just a band…. So I think in Europe people have been taking us more seriously, which has been great. Plus the shows in Europe, it seems like people take music more seriously, not just us, but in general. The venues seem to take sound more seriously, like they’re very apologetic if they don’t have exactly what we need.

Bram: I heard the same from an interview with Dave Edwards (frontman of woven hand and 16 horsepower) once. Who said that Belgium was the most receptive country for just listening to the music, and taking it very seriously, even in the details.

Captain Napkins: Yeah, but I would say lot of the countries we’ve been to in Europe. The venues seem to take the music and the show a little more seriously, you know they put more work in it. but Belgium is one of our favorite places, for sure.

Bram: Okay, let’s switch to another subject: you guys are known to be both Christians and anarchists, how do you combine that?

Captain Napkins: It’s not at all a matter of combining, for me, for us… Well, anarchy… (pauses) We’re Christians, In a way I’m a Christian and I’m just a Christian, but I like to articulate ourselves as anarchists because the concept of anarchy helps people to understand better what we’re talking about: that there’s no system of man that works. All systems of man end up oppressing other people and elevating some people at the expense of others, and for us end up in the way of God, the One who created this world, so, yeah.

Bram: I understand that, but some people might not: I’ve just heard that there is a group of anarchists here in Kortrijk that refused to go come to your show tonight just because you’re Christians. How would you react to that?

Captain Napkins: I understand that. There’s a lot of Christians that have been very judgemental and hurtful to a lot of people. You know been jerks basically, so I totally understand that. There’s also been times for that we’ve been invited to play in a place and we found out that they were Christian and we didn’t want to play, you know.

Bram: Well, I heard that about Christians too, when hearing that you were anarchists, didn’t want to hear your music…

Captain Napkins: yeah, same thing

Bram: I remember when I let someone hear the song ‘come now and join the feast, right here in the belly of the beast’, they thought you were satanists. So how do the common Christians in America react to your music and your message?

Captain Napkins: yeah we’ve been shut down sometimes. We’ve played some shows.We’re very anti, we’re very unpatriotic, you know, like I love, I love the people of my country, I love the l…

Bram: (interrupting quite impulsively) Belgians are the most unpatriotic people of the world.

Captain Napkins: Okay

Bram: We actually just don’t care, we still don’t have a government now for I one year and a half and we don’t even care.

Captain Napkins: That’s maybe similar… that’s how we feel. I’m sure Belgians love each other, and they love the land. That’s how I feel, you know, I love the land from where I come. I love the people, but I don’t care about the government, I don’t care about those people more than other people. so in all those ways I’m not patriotic at all. and that offends of some Christians, and so we’ve kinda shut down

Bram: In America?

Captain Napkins: some of them are very conservative people and we’re not….

Bram: So, conservatives in America are really patriotic?

Captain Napkins: yeah the conservatives in America are patriotic and they tend to be violent.

Bram: recognize this T-shirt? (show T-shirt of the ordinary radicals)

Captain Napkins: yeah

Bram: I guess you know the ‘litany of resistance’, where Shane Claiborne says something like ‘I pledge allegiance to the transnational church that transcends all borders’ or something like that. (losing my words) So, when you’re thinking of Christianity and being part of a country, part of a nation, whatever, Being a Christian and being part of a people, part of a nation, what’s the connection?

Captain Napkins: for me, I don’t consider myself a part of the nation. I just am a part of the

(We arrive at the bar, looking for a good Belgian Beer, and decide to get a Hopus, a rather strong one)

Bram (to bartender): He’s from America, he’ll really appreciate it, he’s the leader of the band who played.

Bartender: yeah, I know man, it was so nice.

Bram: He deserves a hopus, really!

Bartender: yeah man, of course, of course, of course!

Captain Napkins: yeah, we have a lot of Belgian beers in Philly, in Philadelphia, my city where I’m from they love Belgian beers.

Bartender: Belgian beers are the best.

Bram: So, let’s get back to the interview: one of the guy frsom the squat-house where you stayed last time couldn’t be here tonight but he really likes your sound. He said you were the most tight band heever heard. Like one voice playing together, like there’s no ego in the band. How do you do that?

Captain Napkins: Well it’s interesting. I haven’t really, eh

Bram: You’re just tight together without ego’s, like one band with one vision, musically.

Captain Napkins: (thoughtful) Well, if that’s true, well I mean I haven’t head that a lot, it’s a new thing to me actually. But if it’s true, then what makes it happen is that there is a theology to what we’re doing, there is a vision and a mission that.

Bram: A theology?

Captain Napkins: I mean it’s built on a whole thesis, you know.

Bram: I’ve read a short version of it on your website and I’m still waiting for the whole version to be released.

Captain Napkins: Yeah, I need to write it out… that’s what I want to do when I get back from Europe. some more writing. I wrote it long time ago when I was in college. it’s for college, so it’s not, you know, there is a lot that needs to be changed.

Bram: What would you change?

Captain Napkins: Well, not even so much change as I would just add a lot, there is a lot that needs to be added and kinda updated maybe. I still agree with pretty much everything that’s in there, just a lot of things need to be updated…

Bram: Okay, on to something else, and maybe very strange question: what’s the gospel for you as a Christian anarchist? That’s the most important question for a Christian: What exactly is the good news?

Captain Napkins: Well, for me it’s about… (pauses) Eh… This might sound a little bit vague, but it’s important to me. When you ask that question I think of how God is love and loved us all into existence. He loves creation into existence and because of that our faith is about being in relationship with God, with each other and with creation. And that’s where anarchy comes in, and that’s where radical justice comes in: because the world fights against creation, the world fights against the Creator, the world fights against relationships. But for me it starts with the idea that God is love, God loved us into existence and God wants us to be in a a relationship with Him, with each other, and with his creation.

Bram: Makes a lot of sense to me. When I hear this I’m reminded of the controversy of Rob Bell’s ‘love wins’ book, so maybe let’s just ask one of the hardest questions of our faith: what do you think about hell?

Captain Napkins: (pauses) Wow, about hell? I actually was just talking to somebody last night about that and, eh, I do think that there is a hell. I don’t really know, but Jesus talks about it a lot, and our scriptures talk about it a lot, and eh… I’m uncomfortable, but at the same time I think that, eh, you know, I don’t know what it is and I don’t know who goes there, but I think that God is all-powerful (pauses) There is this woman, Julian of Norwich, who’s the first woman ever published in English. She is way back in the 12th century and she wrote something like she had a vision of hell, and she wrote something about like “and all is well and all will be well and all matter of things shall be well”. And it was just this, like it sounds redundant, but it was just her saying that God is kinda makes it work. And God makes it right, and God bring the healing but it’s tough how, I don’t know man, I mean it’s too tough.

I’m not one of those people that thinks that people who don’t confess Jesus automatically go there and stuff. I mean, I don’t know who goes there. I’m not one to decide who goes to hell and who doesn’t, you know, I do believe. I don’t even want to say that people definitely go to hell for eternity and all I think maybe that’s something that’s out of our understanding I’m also one to not say that hell does not exist, I think that hell does exist. And I think there is this suffering. there’s this horrible mess that’s out there and I think that there is such a thing as justice. I think that when injustice happens there is a need for retribution.

Bram: Would you say that there is retribution in justice, or just only putting things right and cleaning up evil without taking revenge?

Captain Napkins: yeah, I don’t necessarily believe in revenge, but I think when something evil happens I think that something needs to be made right, and it isn’t simply forgiven. It’s not a matter of like this horrible thing happens and well, it’s just okay now. No, I believe that like, when people, when a whole village is slaughtered by another group of people, that evil isn’t simply forgiven by God, there is a payment for it, there is a suffering that makes it right again.

Bram: And Jesus took that on him to give us forgiveness. (looks at watch) Looks like it’s getting late, so it’s time to end the interview. So I’ll have one last question: If I’d ask what you’d say to Christian people in Belgium, just regular Christian people, what would you say? What would you challenge them to?

Captain Napkins: Well, eh… People respect authority too much. People respect the Powers that Be too much. Because maybe the governments here are better than our government and so it’s easy…

Bram: Well, we kinda do have healthcare…

Captain Napkins: Yeah, yeah so there’s a lot of good things, and, ehm, it’s easy to not respect the American government but maybe it’s harder for Europeans to not respect theirs. But still I think that any government,and any system still falls short to the Kingdom of God. I think we always have to question them, and that we first have to be citizens of the Kingdom of God, and not citizens of a human government or a King. Maybe I’d say something like that…

Bram: Thank you very much! One more beer?

Mia, or the all-time greatest timeless classic song in Flanders

2014 edit: RIP Luc De Vos!
See also this post RIP Luc De Vos, Flemish rock icon and more (with tribute-song)

Let’s go on with the country I’m living in: Belgium, and more specifically speaking Flanders, since there’s not that much cultural exchange with the parts that speak other languages.

Today I want to take a look at the all-time greatest timeless classic song in Flanders, which is called ‘Mia’, by the dutch-singing rock band Gorky (they made only one CD under that name, and then singer Luc Devos started the band Gorki with other musicians, wikipedia mingles the 2 bands together in english) who sings in dutch.

Like I said, we are not very patriotic here in Belgium, and as a matter of fact, we don’t seem to like music in our language that much. We have a lot of rock bands, but most of them do sing in English, and a lot of rock-minded people don’t tend to like music sung in dutch, since English is the proper language for rock ‘n roll (as Tom Barman, singer of dEUS, would put it)

So which are the Belgian rock bands? Bands like dEUS, Arid, Millionaire, soulwax, absynthe minded, and K’s choice… In older days we had TC Matic, and Ferre Grignard. In other genres we also have a lot of electronic dance music: from front 242 to praga khan, the pop of hooverphonic (they started out more triphoppish, but alas, that didn’t last) and a lot of commercial stuff like Milk inc.

So if you have the list with timeless classics called ‘de tijdloze’ (the timeless one’) at new year on the alternative radio studio brussel, you won’t find much songs in dutch in there. As a matter of fact, since I’ve been a teenager in the nineties, there have been 4 songs in dutch that happened to find themselves there, while mostly all the others are English, with one occasional instrumental… (Look up the 2010 list here)

Believe me or not, Mia by Gorky being on #5 last year, this song has been the #1 in the list for years, before smells like teen spirit, creep, stairway to heaven, one; … And it has also had very high places on other radio stations. (all other belgian songs in the list are english, or instrumental)

The funny thing is that it hasn’t even been a hit, it was a B-side for another single… They never had big hits, but debut hit ‘Anja’, Lieve kleine Piranha’ (sweet little piranha) and ‘soms vraagt een mens zich af'(sometimes a man does wonder) were at least singles… One of the other songs has a sing-along chorus which translated says ‘sweet little piranha, sweet little piranha, sweet little piranha, devour me’…

Strange lyrics, and a voice that always forms the same minimalistic melodies are also the recipe for lots of later Gorki-albums, but he never really had any big hits afterwards. But for some reason people voted the song into the timeless list, and it kept on getting higher with the year, until it finally kicked nirvana off the first place. No-one understood, not even Luc Devos himself, who found it funny but never seemed very impressed, I think he just wanted to have more of his recenter songs to become classics…

So let’s listen to that great song, and look at the lyrics.

When I was hungry, I came to you
you said you can eat, if you wash the dishes
people like you shouldn’t behave difficult
give them a chance before they do stupid things

the middleclass rules the country, better than ever before
Mia has seen the light, she says nobody gets lost

currently we’re still going on, on the lighted path, the wrong track
people like me can be found anywhere,
on the market of labor in this valley of tears

stars come, stars go, only Elvis keeps existing
Mia never suffered, she asks can you still dream

What does the english wikipedia say about the impact of this song:

After ‘Anja’, several other singles were released from the debute album ‘Gorky’. Among them was ‘Soms vraagt een mens zich af’ (Sometimes a man wonders), the b-side of which was ‘Mia’. By making number one in the ‘Tijdloze’ (the Timeless), the ‘best of all times’ charts in Flanders by the music station Studio Brussel, for three consecutive years, ‘Mia’ became known as their largest hit. Likewise, it made number 1 in a similar chart of Radio 1 in Flanders, and best Belgian song in the chart by Radio Donna (in 2005). In 2006, it was elected the best song about girls on a TV-show on the public network ‘één‘. In 2008, the early music consort Capilla Flamenca issued ‘Rosa (Mia)’, a polyphonic adaptation of ‘Mia’ sung in Latin.

In 2008 a new award show was founded called “de Mia’s” (the Mias). It was named after the best Flemish song of all times, and officially stands for the Music Industry Awards..

I had almost forgotten that the MIA awards were named after this song…

Do I like this song? Yes!

Do I find it the best song ever written? No!

Are there better songs in my own language? definitely…

What do you think?



No-one knows the Belgian national anthem (not even belgians)…

so since people from all parts of the world are wondering about Belgium, I decided to write something about my own little country from time to time…

Belgium is a small country that indeed does exist, even when some say it doesn’t, in the middle of Europe, the Western part fo the Eurasian continent, which is the biggest continent of the ploanet. Belgium has almost 11.000.000 inhabitants, three national languages, and a King (Albert II) that has no practical function at all as far I know. (And only a government ad interim, but that’s another story)

I live in Flanders, the Northern part, where flemish is spoken, which is actually the same written language as dutch (the language from the Netherlands), but another dialect. (The Pennsylvania dutch language spoken by some American oldschool anabaptists is actually old german, not dutch.) The other languages are French (actually it should have been Walloon, but the French language is an invasive exotic pest that eradicates all other languages) in the south part  calles Wallony, and German which is the offical language of a very small part that we recieved after the second world war if I remember correctly…

But I was going to talk about the national anthem, the so-called Brabaçonne: Nobody knows it, and nobody cares! And why would we sing those words anyway, it’s not like we’d mean them (translation of the dutch lyrics, from wikipedia)

Belgium – O dear, O holy land of fathers –

Our soul and our hearts are devoted to.

Accept our strength and our blood veins,

Be our goal, in work and struggle.

Prosper, O country, in unbreakable unity;

Be yourself and serve no man,

The word faithful, you may speak boldly,

For King, for Freedom and for Law!

The word faithful, you may speak boldly,

For King, for Freedom and for Law!

For King, for Freedom and for Law!

For King, for Freedom and for Law!

That’s right, everybody sort of knows the melody of the first lines, but I hardly know anyone who knows the whole melody, or the entire lyrics. We simply don’t care enough, and it’s a boring song anyway. And we don’t devote our souls and hearts to our country anyway. We don’t care for our King, and don’t believe that our political machine brings freedom… (only more bureacracy)

It’s even hard to find a decent vocal version on youtube… So here, for your pleasure and education, is Helmut Lotti, a very popular (ahum) flemish singer, who sings it for our King in the three languages (starting with french and keeping dutch for last, for some obscure reason)

Truth is, we don’t care at all about any anthem. We don’t like to be patriots and we don’t like our country (or any country) and we don’t believe in politicians or Kings (and rightly so, they just screw up…)

There also is a Flemish movement, which wants to separate Flanders from the rest of Belgium. (the relations between the 3 regions are very complicated) and some of it is more extreme right, and so associated with fascism, and that’s why we are also ashamed of the Flemish antem, ‘de Vlaamse Leeuw’ (the Flemish Lion)

So we don’t know no anthems. We don’t care about them. And if you listen to them you know why… That’s us…



american synchretism

hi readers all over the world (if you exist at all…) this is another rant from me…
Like I said, sometimes I feel like an alien. That applies to my own secular belgian culture and the evangelical and pentacostel churches I know alike, but it applies even more to some ‘christian subculture’ from other places that I sometimes encounter, which may be promoted as the one and only real christianity in its purest form, or something like that…

Take for example the american evangelicalism. Some of its culture and tradition is very weird to me, and focussing on very irrelevant details which mostly distract from the gospel instead of bringing people closer to Jesus’ eternal Kingdom… Like Marc Driscolls macho-sexism, or the patriotism interwoven in some forms of american christianity, or the whole pragmatic approach to evangelism which seems more like world conformity than anything else. I don’t buy any of it, and though some of it may be cute and harmless, I am affraid that lots of this kind of synchretism are very harmful to the gospel.

And if the church culture you are in in a middle european country is a bad imitation of some american church culture that wouldn’t even be relevant in its own surrounding would, then something is wrong.

We have to contextualise the gospel our way. We don’t have to repeat the irrelevant mistakes of another culture in ours because lots of evangelical and pentacostel churches have american roots. That’b be a very bad idea. We have to get to learn Jesus Christ as the way, the Truth and the Light, and make that true in our own life. And we have to find a way to contextualise that in our own world. We don’t have to use language and structures from another time (when they did still work) or another continent (where I hope they work) to our own culture to bring the gospel.

We have to live the gospel, bring the gospel, and let christ transform our (sub)culture and change our life… And it is unavoidable to have a certain degree of ‘synchretism’ when we are ‘everything to everyone’, or american to the americans, goth to the goths, african to the africans, flemish to the flemish people, to paraphrase Paul. But we as europeans do not need the enlightened american culture to understand the gospel… We need more Jesus, and less hypes, less consumer-capitalistic synchretism, less weird fundamentalism,…

More Jesus, more Father, more Spirit in our lives!!!