On March 22, 2018, the International School Network visited the Embassy of Belgium to interview the Ambassador, His Excellency Mr. Gunther Sleeuwagen. H.E. Mr. Sleeuwagen explained that Belgium is a nation full of diversity, due to its open borders surrounded by large countries. He notes that the culture of Belgium is one that mixes the two different mentalities of Europe; German and Latin, as showcased by their national motto, “Unity makes strength”. H.E. Mr. Sleeuwagen commented that Belgian people value the respect for individuals, prominently in the form of democracy.
H.E. Mr. Sleeuwagen’s message for students is to become more open and tolerant. Globalization is making the world smaller every day and has been leading people into wars and terrorism. H.E. Mr. Sleeuwagen explained that traveling, both physically and mentally, can lead to open mindedness and the ability to accept and listen to others. Moreover, H.E. Mr. Sleeuwagen explained that people do not necessarily have to copy or assimilate with others in order to be open and listening; they should keep their own identity and own minds. He hopes that people can continue their interactions with different cultures to exchange information that can lead to mutual respect and understanding, as H.E. Mr. Sleeuwagen noted, everyone has dreams and emotions, “all the same”.
Since a young age, H.E. Mr. Sleeuwagen had always wanted to become a traveler. He shared with us his passion for initiating new ideas and events, and emphasized the importance to stick to ambitions whilst keeping an open mind. Furthermore, H.E. Mr. Sleeuwagen expressed his gratefulness for working in Japan, a country with good relations with Belgium including the connection between the royal families. H.E. Mr. Sleeuwagen has the impression that Japan is a nation with kind, cultured, and welcoming people, and he enjoys the fact that Tokyo is not just a place of excitement but can also be a quiet area. As the Ambassador, H.E. Mr. Sleeuwagen hopes that the good relations between Belgium and Japan, which has been advancing for over four centuries, can continue to flourish. By Madoka Nishina