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Monarchs from across Europe call for unity and tolerance

Monarchs from across Europe have made calls for unity and tolerance as they address their nation in an annual Christmas broadcast.

Many of the broadcasts reflected on the recent atrocities that have occurred over the past year, including the deadly terror attacks around the world and the migrant crisis in which millions have fled their homes for a better life in Europe.

In the United Kingdom, Queen Elizabeth II spoke to the nation on Christmas Day and talked about ‘light overcoming darkness’.

Addressing the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, the 89 year old monarch spoke of her religious beliefs and how they bring her comfort.

She quoted a verse from the Gospel of John which she said gave hope in times of darkness.

She said: “It is true that the world has had to confront moments of darkness this year, but the Gospel of John contains a verse of great hope often read at Christmas carol services: ‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it’”.

In the Netherlands, King Willem-Alexander told the Dutch people not to give in to fear and “curl” to the challenges facing Europe.

He said: “Many people in the Netherlands are worried about the future and how we can protect our way of life in a world of which we are part of.

“Of course we want to protect what is dear to us, we cannot prevent or deny the feelings of fear,”

In a defining part of his speech, the King said: “We cannot let fear dominate our society.”

“We do not have to hide or deny our fears,’ he said. ‘But we do not need to allow those fears to take over and run our society.”

Like many monarchs, King Willem-Alexander talked about the recent terror attacks that have plagued the world, including the attacks in Paris on November 13th.

The Dutch monarch also mentioned the migrant crisis where millions of migrants from Syria and other war torn areas are seeking refuge in Europe.

He said that the Netherlands should show “solidarity with regard to those who need our help.”

The small country has already taken in around 54,000 refugees in a show of solidarity.

Similarly, King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden in his Christmas day radio broadcast, talked of the efforts being made to help refugees coming into Europe and how the Swedes must defend society’s values by remaining trusting and open.

The Swedish King said that it was time to look to the future with confidence despite the difficulties faced in 2015.

He said to the nation: “In November, 130 young people lost their lives in a series of coordinated attacks in Paris. The attacks touched us all.

“The openness and trust that have thus far reflected our society can’t always be taken for granted. Not here in Sweden either. We have to care, and stand up for, these values.”

Speaking of the migrant crisis, he said that the unrest “has come close to us in a way that we haven’t experienced in a very long time in our country.”

Sweden has allowed 160,000 asylum seekers into the country in 2015 alone. This is a large amount for Sweden with its population of just under 10 million.

“There are 60 million people in the world who have fled their homes. Some of them have come to seek shelter and a future for themselves and their children here in Sweden. Our willingness to help these people is very strong,”

Belgium has been at the epicenter of some of the recent terror attacks, with nine people arrested in the country in relation to the November Paris attacks.

In his speech, Belgian King Philippe made some of the bluntest remarks out of all of the Christmas broadcasts in Europe.

He said: We continue, unfortunately, to be marked by the dramatic attacks perpetrated in Paris, and realize the dangers that continue to weigh on us.”

He continued that the Belgian authorities had “reacted with calm, speed and determination” to the terrorist threats, and added, “The recent events proved how important it is to invest in justice, the police, the army and intelligence services.”

Continuing on the theme of tolerance and unity, he said that migrants “share the values of our country,” and that “they are the sons and daughters of this country.”

King Felipe VI of Spain said in his Christmas Eve message that people should unite and called for ‘understanding and fraternal spirit’.

In contrast to other European monarchs however, King Felipe is speaking to the nation after a very uncertain general election which had produced no conclusive result.

The King, who has been Spain’s monarch for almost two years now, also called for “national cohesion”. Some analysts say that this could be criticism of separatists in Catalonia who want independence from Spain.

He called for “understanding and a fraternal spirit” to end uncertainty.

The Spanish monarchy has a high opinion poll rating after the unexpected abdication of King Juan Carlos in 2014. Felipe took over the crown from his father and has regained some popularity in Spain.

In his festive message, the King said: “Political plurality, expressed at the ballot box, without a doubt offers different sensitivities, visions and perspectives; and it involves a way of exercising politics based on dialogue, consensus and commitment. Now, what should matter to all, first and foremost, is Spain and the general interest of the Spanish people.”