A local Belgian television station is reporting that Red Cross volunteers have been told they must remove all crucifixes from their facilities in a move that is meant to “assert its secularism.”
Many of the volunteers are angered by the move and have taken to express their deep disagreement with the decision. Andre Rouffart, president of the Red Cross House of Verviers, explained the organization’s basis for the demand (translated from French):
"Following an email received from the Provincial Committee of the Red Cross in Liège to the 28 Red Cross houses of the Province, we were asked to respect the principles of the Red Cross—it is to say no distinctive religion or race. I think it's a tempest in a teacup … the removal of the crosses has nothing to do with St. Nicholas."
The order came as Belgium prepares for the sixth anniversary of the Christmas market attacks conducted by Islamic terrorists. But many Red Cross volunteers—most of whom were among the first to respond to the 2011 attacks—believe it’s a step too far.
One aid worker said (translated from French):
"Let things be as they are. We said Christmas holidays now, winter holidays. The Christmas market in Brussels has become the Winter Pleasures."
The same aid worker fears the effort to appease other religious groups, particularly Muslims, could spark an unintended backlash among the local residents who still feel animosity over the 2011 terror attacks. He said:
"For a certain part of the population, it is because of the Muslims that the crosses were removed in the Red Cross houses and, more particularly, in the Verviers houses, and that has absolutely nothing to do with it."
The European secularism movement has been a concern for many Christians who see it as a sign of broadening persecution against their biblical beliefs.