A Dutch Church Is Conducting Non-Stop Services To Protect A Refugee Family

The world is becoming a really horrible place especially for the millions of refugees and people displaced as a result of war and natural calamity.

An Armenian refugee family have been taking refuge for the past 27 days, in a small Protestant church in The Hague and the church has been conducting round-the-clock religious services to protect them from deportation.

Police officers in The Netherlands are forbidden to enter places of worship during religious services and so, reverends from around the country are taking turns holding services at Bethel Church to prevent officials from arresting the Tamrazyan family who have been staying in the Netherlands for the last nine years.

“By giving hospitality to this family, we could give them time and place to [demonstrate] to the secretary of state the … urgency of their situation,” Theo Hettema, chairman of the General Council of Protestant Ministers says.

After battling years of court procedures, they were granted asylum by a judge, but the government launched legal proceedings and succeeded in overturning that ruling.

The family has applied for a “children’s pardon,” which is a policy that allows refugee families with children who have resided in The Netherlands for more than five years to get a permit to stay, but sadly their application was denied as The Dutch government has only granted 100 out of 1,360 applications for child’s pardon since May 2013.

The Tamrazyans were staying at an asylum shelter in the municipality of Katwijk for two years, but when they found out about the deportation order, they sought shelter at a nearby church which was too small to house the family.

They then connected with other Protestant congregations in The Hague to ask for help and the Bethel Church took their request. The Tamrazyan family has been there ever since.

It was not an easy decision for the church, as Hettema explains, no church should have to choose between respect for human dignity and respect for government. But in the end, he told his church that he decided to welcome them to stay true to “the openness and hospitality of the church.”

Hettema says that the church services will not stop as of now, and hopes the Minister of Migration, Mark Harbers, will use his “discretionary” powers to grant residency to the Tamrazyans, as he has done in the past for certain cases.

The Dutch have been under criticism because of their harsh asylum laws, and has been fueled even more by the rising power of far-right parties which has brought anti-immigration rhetoric into the mainstream and created a tense climate for many refugees.

However, this month, the Tamrazyans say their saw a different side of the country, as hundreds of people visited Bethel Church to show their support for them.

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Hettema says that more than 300 Dutch reverends have volunteered to lead services at Bethel, and a petition calling on the Dutch government to grant more children’s pardons to refugee families has garnered close to a quarter of a million signatures.

Hayarpi Tamrazyan says, “It’s impossible to express how special it feels when so many people help you.”

We sincerely pray for the Tamrazyan family that they may receive asylum for the Dutch government and that they may be able to stay in The Netherlands peacefully.

Verse of the Day

Hear my voice when I call, LORD; be merciful to me and answer me. My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, LORD, I will seek. Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, God my Savior. — Psalm 27:7-9a (NIV)

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