When the government in the Netherlands decided to send a family back to a dangerous situation in Armenia, Bethel Church found an unusual way to help: by holding church services without stopping. It’s now been going on for over a month.
The Tamrazyan family came to the Netherlands nine years ago looking for safety. The family was escaping from Armenia, where people had threatened to kill the father because of his political views. A judge in the Netherlands agreed that the family had the right to stay in the country.
But some people in the Netherlands don’t like the idea of immigrants – people who move to one country from another. The government in the Netherlands changed its mind about the Tamrazyan family. It went to court three times until a judge agreed that the family could be sent back to Armenia.
The family’s children were just 5, 10, and 12 years old when they left Armenia. They have grown up in the Netherlands over the last nine years. They are now 14, 19, and 21. They don’t know what might be waiting for them in Armenia, but it has them worried.
— Hayarpi (@hayarpi_3) November 3, 2018
In the Netherlands, the law says that police can’t come into a church while there is a service going on. When the Tamrazyan family learned that the government was going to send them back, they went to a church. The first church could not take care of them, but Bethel Church in The Hague could.
On October 26, the church began a religious service that has not stopped since. It wasn’t an easy decision for the church. A person speaking for the church said that they had to choose “between respecting the government and protecting the rights of a child.” The church decided that the rights of children were more important in this case.
At first, it was hard for the church to keep the religious services going around the clock – they didn’t have enough people. But after the word spread on the Internet about what the church was doing, they soon had plenty of people offering to help.
The church keeps the services going by swapping religious leaders. As one leader finishes a service, another leader takes over. The church’s leader, Axel Wicke, says that over 450 people have contacted the church, offering to help hold services. He says that they’ve also gotten help from other countries, and that services have been held in English, French, and German. Even leaders from different religions have joined in.
— Hayarpi (@hayarpi_3) November 13, 2018
The government can make special rules for families with children who have been in the country for five years or more. It has done this before. But so far, the government has not agreed to allow the Tamrazyan family to stay.
The family is hoping that with some pressure, the government will change its mind. Almost 250,000 people have signed a letter to the government in support of families like the Tamrazyan family.
But until something changes, it looks like Bethel Church will keep having church services around the clock.
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