Nativity restored in Holsbeek

Peace and calm have returned to the otherwise sleepy Flemish village of Holsbeek that has been at the centre of a Nativity row this week. The city fathers and mothers have decided to return the village's Nativity to its cherished place under the Christmas tree at municipal hall. The Nativity was removed last week Tuesday following complaints by people of no faith eager to see the impartiality of the authorities respected.

The break with the past triggered a heated debate across northern Belgium. In some quarters the Nativity was embraced as a symbol of our cultural heritage, while some were accused of making political hay from this incident.

Holsbeek mayor Hans Eyssen of the Christian democrat party was keen to cross his T's: "A number of residents - and let me be clear they were not Muslims as reported here and there - they were Flemings of no faith - had complained to the municipal secretary pointing out that the Nativity had no place in the neutral setting of the municipal hall. We believe that it is first and foremost a Christmas decoration. We never put the Nativity there in order to proselytise."

A protest urging residents to turn up at the municipal council meeting with a Nativity of their own was called off.