Dutch Church Hosts a 96-Day-Long Service To Protect an Armenian Refugee Family From Being Deported

candle by Church service background

Photo: araraadt/Depositphotos (Not a photo of the actual church.)

Church services are known for bringing people together. Sometimes, they can also rally behind a community member in need of help. But few efforts are as unique as that of Bethelkerk (Bethel Church), in the Netherlands. Facing deportation, a refugee family took shelter at the Protestant temple. And since the police is not allowed to disrupt a church service to make an arrest, the church kept the service going for 96 days straight to keep them safe.

The heartwarming effort took place at the end of 2018 and January 2019. After fleeing Armenia due to political prosecution in 2010, the Tamrazyan family settled in the Netherlands. After a years-long process, the government denied their final request for asylum. Furthermore, they proceeded despite the fact that three children had been in the country for more than five years and were technically eligible for an amnesty.

As a last resort, the family first took refuge in a church in Katwijk. When the temple ran out of resources to help them, Bethel Church gladly stepped in. In addition to the service, they provided the family with lodging, psychological help, and in-house education for the children, who could no longer go to school.

To make the endeavor work, they relied on the kindness of 650 clerics from 20 different denominations around the Netherlands and neighboring countries. The clergymen and women would travel to Bethel Church, located in The Hague, and would take over from previous priests, sometimes pulling all-nighters with hymns and prayers to keep the immigration officers at bay. If any of them took a break, the authorities would be able to enter and arrest the five members of the family.

Luckily, everything worked out in the end. After 96 days, not only was the family given permission to remain in the Netherlands, but the effort also helped more people. “The purpose of the church shelter was to provide safety for the family who had exhausted all legal remedies and to come to a solution for families in similar situations. Now that more than 600 rooted children and their parents can stay in the Netherlands, the intended result has been achieved,” the church said in a statement.

“The church has become a home,” said Hayarpi, the eldest daughter, upon the end of the weeks-long mass. “We have had sad but also very beautiful moments. The Bethelkerk is for me now a special building, but I am glad that I can get out of it and can continue to build on my future.”

Facing deportation, a refugee family took shelter at a temple in the Netherlands. And since the police is not allowed to disrupt a church service to make an arrest, the church kept the service going for 96 days straight to keep them safe.

h/t: [The New York Times]

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Regina Sienra

Regina Sienra is a Staff Writer at My Modern Met. Based in Mexico City, Mexico, she holds a bachelor’s degree in Communications with specialization in Journalism from the National Autonomous University of Mexico. She has 10+ years’ experience in Digital Media, writing for outlets in both English and Spanish. Her love for the creative arts—especially music and film—drives her forward every day.
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