Grand Duchess Maria with the group of students in attendance at the Stand Speak Rise Up! reception held at Château de Berg on Thursday (Photo: Matic Zorman)

Grand Duchess Maria with the group of students in attendance at the Stand Speak Rise Up! reception held at Château de Berg on Thursday (Photo: Matic Zorman)

The forum, held on 26-27 March, placed survivors of sexual violence at the centre to raise awareness to end rape as a weapon. 

Grand Duchess Maria Teresa, who launched the initiative, and Grand Duke Henri spoke with several of the attendees over the course of the reception, which eventually moved from the garden to the interior as the rain moved in. 

Among the guests were Dominique Hansen, head of finance and business development at Luxembourg’s Philharmonie, who also leads Fondatioun EME, which “brings music to people who don’t have access” otherwise. She was involved with Stand Speak Rise Up! through both of her roles, being involved in the event’s gala held at the Phil and also because some of the musicians are a group refugees who “played music in this context”. 

She added, “For the foundation to be asked to play there and be part of it was a nice recognition for Fondatioun EME,” which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. “I’m proud of [the students] and also for their parents. The grand-ducal family is very nice with them.”

The royal couple each took time to speak with the group of students, among whom were Julinho Mendes, who hails from Guinea-Bissau and has been in Luxembourg for 4 years. “It’s a great honour, it’s not every day you can do that,” Mendes said. “We were a bit nervous at first, but it’s actually quite calm.”

Fellow student Ahmad Bangeen, from Iraq, agreed with him, adding that he was enjoying his life in Luxembourg where “things are tranquil”.

Another set of musicians also in attendance were members of the Choco y sus Cómplices, a Cuban timba band that played during the after-party for March’s inititiative. Eric Durrer, composer and band leader, told Delano, “We expected that it would be very soft music we would have to play, but it was totally the opposite. When playing the first song, people came to the stage asking for more, and by the third song everyone was dancing.”

He added that being at Thursday’s reception was “a fantastic experience”. 

Continuing the movement

The timing of the reception couldn’t have been better: on 18 June, the EU and UN released a joint statement on the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence, in which it called on “the international community to accelerate its efforts to eliminate the scourge of all forms of sexual violence, including as a strategy and tactic of war and terror”. The UN Security Council also pushed the adoption of a survivor-centred approach to minimise victim stigmatization and ostracisation, topics which were at the forefront during the March Stand Speak Rise Up! forum.

Grand Duchess Maria Teresa is continuing the movement as well, having visited Jacques Schneider’s Kritzel Fabrik earlier this week to inaugurate a signature wall which visitors can sign over the summer to pledge their support for the cause. 

A white paper on the impact of the initiative will also be released on 25 June. 

Photos: Matic Zorman