"Peace begins with protecting what we share", Dutch King in Christmas speech (Full speech text)

King Willem-Alexander giving the 2016 Christmas speech
King Willem-Alexander giving the 2016 Christmas speech. (Koninklijk Huis)

On Christmas Day King Willem-Alexander gave his annual Christmas Speech from the palace in Wassenaar. He spoke about war in Syria, fear of terrorism and seemingly growing gaps in society. In these uncertain times, the King called on everyone to focus on what we share and protect what connects us.

Here follows the full text of King Willem-Alexander's Christmas Speech for 2016:

Heaven and earth touch each other at Christmas. Christ, the son of God was born in a simple stable. his mother put him to sleep in a manger. Angels proclaimed a message of peace and hope for a better world.

Celebrating Christmas can be confronting and make us thin. Near the spot where the manger stood, fear and violence now reign. Unimaginable are the hardships that ordinary people - many of them small children - suffer in Syria, but also in other countries. Violence can also hit close. Terrorist attacks - like this week in Berlin - dropped many families in mourning this year.

Christmas 2016 also evokes contradictory feelings. That is why I struggled with this Christmas Speech.

We would so much like to see the angel of peace spread his wings over the world. We would so much want to know we are safe. But at the same time there is much that makes us worried and gives us a sense of threat and helplessness. Antagonism in the world appear to be larger. Extreme seems to be the new normal. Searching for security, groups dig into their own certainty. That often makes an open conversation impossible. Many feel they live in a country without listeners.

Those who have doubts about the future, often idealize the past. We give over to nostalgia for the past. Yes, the past...

We know that the reality was less rosy. And that many issues we are now so worried about, on closer inspection, are less serious than we sometimes think.

That very many things are luckily going well and that life in many ways is really better than then. 

"Perception is reality", you often hear. But the foundation of everyday life turns into quicksand if perception loses sight of reality. Let us honestly name difficult problems. But if there is one country that also knows connection and solidarity, it is the Netherlands. Without seeking the limelight, millions of carers and volunteers are our quiet strength. Do we see you and your loving work enough?

The message of Christmas is a message of hope, peace and charity.

That is a call to each of us. How do we behave toward one another? What do we do ourselves to set up our society in such away that everyone is safe and can feel at home? Can we still say: solving problems peacefully together?

In these uncertain times, it is necessary to keep solid ground underfoot. The values that traditionally belong to the Netherlands, also determine our ability to come together in the future. While the world seems to give us less footing, we must stick to what we share and protect what connects us.

Because that is how we want to live here together. As free and equal people. Without those with a dissenting opinion need to be afraid of threats or intimidation and without discrimination on grounds of belief, race, gender or sexual orientation. These rights apply here for everyone, always.

Freedom needs space. Room to live, to move, to think and debate without fear. Space to be different from each other. That freedom belongs to us and is stronger than any act of terrorism.

Earlier this year I opened in the Rotterdam Library an exhibition dedicated to the famous Dutchman Desiderius Erasmus. He lived 500 years ago, not long after the invention of the printing press, the internet of the 16th century. Erasmus was one of the first who took advantage of it. The whole reading Europe knows his work.

Erasmus was a deeply religious man with a critical mind and a sharp pen. A man who dared to overthrow sacred houses. Nothing human was alien to him and he could be tremendously worked up about the abuses of his time. But he always continued to search for his strength in reasonable arguments and peacefully exchanging ideas. We need each other after all.

"Nature has divided our gifts so that one man can not do without the help of others", he wrote.

Terrorists are trying to undermine our free way of living and to undermine our sense of home. Rightly people desire saftey first. 

In this time of uncertainty, fear and anger are understandable emotions. But anger can not be the final station. The peace we so desire does not come closer if people drop out and isolate themselves. Peace begins with protecting what we share and the use of all positive forces. Without you, without you, it does not happen. 

At Christmas we are urged not to give up. Not to give up on one another. Every person counts. Christmas light shines for all of us, and again makes us visible to each other.

The old Christmas carol puts it beautifully

Among all the people
In the human family
Hear, the herald angels sing glory
Of the newborn Lord

I wish all of you - wherever you are and what your personal circumstances may be - a blessed Christmas.