'Truce of God' for an independent Flanders

In Steenstrate (West Flanders) some 5000 people attended the annual IJzerwake. For radical Flemish nationalists the IJzerwake has become the alternative to the traditional IJzerbedevaart pilgrimage. The participants of the IJzerwake demand an independent Flanders and the demise of the Belgian state.
The theme of the IJzerwake this year, 'Wealth and welfare through independence,' was the golden thread through the speeches. The chairman of the IJzerwake committee, Wim de Wit, called for a 'truce of God' between all the political parties in Belgium to realise an independent Flemish state. The chairman even reached out to the IJzerbedevaart committee to work together.
The IJzerwake is an organisation that split off from the IJzerbedevaart and unites the more radical Flemish nationalists. Each year in August they organise a commemoration of the victims of the two World Wars, combined with a rally for Flemish independence and a more conservative government policy.
The annual event gets its name from the IJzer or Yser River. Around the river is where some of the fiercest and most deadly battles of the First World War were fought.

The IJzerwake takes place in a field which has a monument commemorating the Van Raemdonck Brothers. The Flemish soldiers were killed there during enemy fire. As the story goes, the bodies of the two brothers were not buried because, according to the French-speaking general, they were "only Flemings". The story highlights an underlying tension, which still exists today in the minds of a small group of Flemish, between the French and Dutch-speaking Belgians.

The IJzerbedevaart means the Pilgrimage of the IJzer or Yser. It is a yearly gathering of Flemings to remember the Flemish soldiers who died during WWI. It was first organised in 1920 and has been an important symbol of Flemish political autonomy. During WWII the pilgrimages were organised by the German occupying forces. Because of the venue of the IJzerbedevaart, Diksmuide, has become a gathering place of neo-Nazi groups from all over Europe. The IJzerbedevaart did not want to be associated with the extreme right wing movement and has tried to make its message more up to date. 

The 82nd IJzerbedevaart takes place in Diksmuide next Sunday.  The theme this year will be  'Flanders is for everyone'.