Church holds continuous worship service to prevent family's deportation

After hearing that a refugee family faced imminent deportation, a Netherlands church sprung into action ― and members have continued stepping up for over one month.

Bethel, a church and community center in The Hague, has taken dramatic steps to protect the Tamrazyans, an Armenian family of five asylum-seekers who have lived in the Netherlands for nine years. The government has reportedly denied the family’s asylum request and approved them for deportation ― even though there’s a law in place that allows children who have lived in the country for over five years to be eligible for a residence permit, if they also fulfill other requirements. The Tamrazyans applied for a permit under that law and were denied, according to Bethel.

Knowing that Dutch law prevents police officers from entering houses of worship during religious services, church members decided to hold a nonstop worship service at Bethel that would allow the Tamrazyans to take shelter in the church.

The continuous worship service started on Oct. 26 at 1:30 p.m. ― and it hasn’t stopped since.

Bethel’s activism around asylum-seekers has the support of its wider denomination, the Protestant Church in the Netherlands (Protestantse Kerk). Bethel has a rotating array of ministers coming to help conduct the services. They’ve also invited lay members of the community to attend services and help with groceries. The church says about 3,500 visitors from all over the Netherlands have come to Bethel to help support the Tamrazyans.

In a press release, Bethel said it respects court orders but finds itself in a “dilemma” ― “the choice between respecting the government and protecting the rights of a child.”

Leaders said they wanted to engage in a dialogue with politicians about the family’s asylum request and about the Netherlands’ treatment of child asylum-seekers looking to get residence permits. 

Advocacy groups claim there are at least 400 other cases of child asylum-seekers who have been living in the Netherlands for over five years, the BBC reports. 

“The purpose of the Church Asylum is to create rest and safety for the
family and to offer some respite to the family during which we invite politicians to discuss with us the family’s fate and the effects of the Child Amnesty Arrangement,” the church wrote in its release.

In the meantime, worship at the church continues. 

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.
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