Planning for parties, weddings, and other gatherings involves organizing hundreds of details, from food to space to invitations and the like. Fortunately, most events don’t last very long and everyone goes home at the end of the night. However, a church in the Netherlands has been hosting an event since October, but it’s no party. It’s an act of protest.
Home. It’s a curious idea that many take for granted, barely thinking about how fortunate having a home is. The Tamrazyan family — five of them — are refugees who fled Armenia and have been living in the Netherlands for the past eight years while the government decided on their asylum case. In late October they were told their case was not approved and they would need to leave the country they’d called home for nearly a decade.
Not knowing what to do, the church reached out to them. In secret, church officials devised a plan to help the family. In the Netherlands, there is a law that forbids police from entering churches while services are taking place. The Bethel church and community center in The Hague gathered ministers from surrounding areas to support their plan and on October 26th, they started preaching a non-stop service that’s still going. The Tamrazyan family is being sheltered in the church and officiants from around the country are coming to offer their support by keeping the service going, thus barring police from entry
“I had copied and pasted the liturgies of the last 10 years into one huge document and we just sang and prayed through that, until other pastors were found and took over,” said Axel Wicke of Bethel church.
This act has garnered the support of the surrounding community outside of the church, highlighting the other families who find themselves in similar circumstances. At the moment it seems like a deadlock, with neither side budging on the issue. One pastor called Joost Roselaers notes the obvious call to protect refugees as a quintessential part of the Christian faith and stands proudly in their defense.
“How long will it take? Well, only God knows. Let’s hope before Christmas. It would be a very nice time for the government to change its mind. But we will go on and on until it’s clear that this family can stay,” he said.
An online petition has been gaining traction, bidding the government to grant more child pardons for asylum. It currently has over 245,000 signatures.