A church in The Hague is going to extreme measures to show its intolerance for the anti-immigrant sentiment that has spread across Europe in recent years, as it enters its 38th day holding continuous services in order to protect an asylum-seeking Armenian family from deportation.
The Tamrazyan family was given sanctuary by Bethel Church on October 26 after they learned the Dutch government planned to deport them. They have lived in the country since 2010, after reportedly fleeing death threats in Armenia due to their political activism.
“There was only one thing you could do and that was starting a church service to save the life of this family, but also call attention for the fate of so many children in similar circumstances.” —Theo Hettema, General Council of the Protestant Church of The Hague
Taking advantage of an old Dutch law stating that police and immigration authorities cannot enter a place of worship when services are taking place, the church has held round-the-clock worship for more than 900 hours since the family moved in.
“There was only one thing you could do and that was starting a church service to save the life of this family, but also call attention for the fate of so many children in similar circumstances,” Theo Hettema, chair of the General Council of the Protestant Church of The Hague, told the Associated Press.
The church’s pastor started by copying and pasting “the liturgies of the last 10 years into one huge document” and preaching from it until other preachers from the area volunteered to take shifts at all hours of the day and night.
As of Monday, about 500 volunteers from all over the country and neighboring Belgium had offered to give sermons and lead services.
“The aim is to create time and space for dialogue with the government about a dilemma that no church should be placed: choosing between respect for the government and protecting the rights of a child,” Hettema said in a statement.
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