After hearing that an Armenian family of five was in danger of deportation, a Protestant church in The Hague took measures to protect them. The Tamrazyan family had lived in the Netherlands for nine years, though the government denied their asylum request and ordered their deportation. The family’s children applied for a special residence permit, which was also denied. In an effort to help delay the family’s deportation, the church decided to hold a continuous worship service at the Bethel Church in The Hague, so the family of five could shelter there as long as they need to.
Dutch law prohibits police officers from entering houses of worship during religious services, so as long as the service is in progress, the family will remain safe. The marathon service began on October 26th, and it’s been ongoing ever since. In an email to HuffPost, Rev. Theo Hettema said, “The family is in the building continuously. They can be arrested when they go outside.”
The Tamrazyan family fears returning to Armenia, because the father has been threatened in the past for his political activism.
There are a rotating group of 400 ministers and parishioners attending the services each day, and community members have even volunteered to bring groceries to the church. Over 3,500 people from across the Netherlands have volunteered to help the Tamrazyans.
Church leaders have acknowledged that they’re in a bit of a pickle when it comes to their ethical responsibilities. In a press release, they said the “choice between respecting the government and protecting the rights of a child” isn’t an easy one. There are no plans to stop the service anytime soon, however. “We plan to continue the services,” said Hettema, in order “to create time and space for a dialogue on the life of this family and the fate of children in similar circumstances.”