In the ranking for identifying the best integration lab in Europe, Mechelen has all the right cards for aspiring to first place.
Unlike other Belgian cities with an outbreak of almost 500 foreign fighters and the scenes of multiple terrorist attacks, the heart of Flanders – governed by Mayor Bart Somers – is much more than a postcard destination: under its Gothic belfries, among perfectly aligned houses and beyond the artistic installations of its parks, a lively network of aggregation and dialogue hubs is rewriting the history of the Old Continent.
At the Rojm centre for instance, youngster coming from different countries, try to invent their future through cooking classes, professional start-ups and music in a spirit of mutual collaboration. Migrants and locals discover unexplored paths by participating in conversation class programs at De Rooster or the Social House of Lange Schipstraat; in the Arsenaal Theatre, under the guidance of Tom Kestens, Belgian and Moroccan girls have embarked on a path to stage a show about being a woman today. At the Royal Gym sports centre there is always a Thai or kick boxing course for challenging oneself and unloading some stress while respecting rules, and the neighbourly spirit is strengthened every day with original neighbourhood parties held with funds provided by the Municipality.
The inhabitants respond to camera policies and the Gendarmerie on the street with innovative inclusion initiatives: street art, shows and every form of personal skill enhancement make Mechelen a city that no one ever wants to leave. An authentic city of peace, where Europe has not yet forgotten what the pillars of its culture are.