A town in Belgium will not be putting up a nativity scene for Christmas, with some suggesting the move came to avoid offending Muslims.
The town of Holsbeek, Belgium, 20 miles from Brussels, will reportedly not put up a traditional nativity scene for Christmas 2016, the Daily Mail reports. Archiel Claes, a former alderman from Holsbeek, said that the manger scene would be "too provocative," and that officials feared offending Muslims in the town.
Claes told De Morgen that the fear of offending Muslims was overblown by the town. He added that he could "understand" if the nativity scene had been canceled in Molenbeek, where the terrorists who carried out November 2015's attacks in Paris had lived, but that the move to cancel the scene in Holsbeek was "ridiculous," according to the Daily Express.
"There are maybe only four Muslims living in town and they would never complain that there is a nativity scene in city hall," Claes said.
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The town's current alderman, Annelies Vander Bracht, said that the decision not to erect a nativity scene did not have to do with Muslims, but rather with the separation of church and state. "To be as neutral as possible, we took away the nativity scene," said Bracht.
"Gays or victims of pedophile priests would not be too thrilled by a symbol of the church either," she added. "Let's keep it in the private sphere, I think that is the smartest way. At home I do have a nativity scene as it is nice for the kids."
Theo Francken, the state secretary of Asylum and Migration in Belgium, said that the nativity scene was a "matter of principle."
"Some people want to take away all our traditions, but I will resist that," said Francken.
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The decision to remove the nativity scene was supported by the Christian Democrats and the Green party within the town. Another party, the Flemish-nationalist N-VA party, told locals to attend the next town meeting and to bring a nativity scene with them.