Dutch church holds 800-hour service to save family from deportation

A church in the Netherlands is holding an around-the-clock service that has lasted more than 800 hours, to s...

Posted: Nov 29, 2018 2:42 PM
Updated: Nov 29, 2018 2:42 PM

A church in the Netherlands is holding an around-the-clock service that has lasted more than 800 hours, to shield a family from deportation.

Under Dutch law, police officers are not permitted to enter a church while a religious service is taking place. So, for more than a month, hundreds of pastors and volunteers from across the country have been meeting to maintain the 24/7 service in support of an Armenian family whose asylum claim has been rejected.

Belief, religion and spirituality

Buildings and structures

Churches and cathedrals

Continents and regions

Deportation

Europe

Families and children

Family life

Family services

Immigration, citizenship and displacement

International relations and national security

Netherlands

Points of interest

Religious buildings

Social assistance and welfare

Society

Western Europe

Theo Hettema, chairman of the General Council of Protestant Ministers in the Netherlands, told CNN the service will continue "as long as it's necessary."

"We want to love God and our neighbor. And we thought that this was a clear opportunity to put the love for our neighbor into reality," he said.

The Tamrazyan family, including three children Hayarpi, Warduhi and Seyran, fled Armenia and have been living in the Netherlands since April 2010 while their claim for political asylum was being decided. But their case was rejected, and they've now been told to leave the country.

Hayarpi Tamrazyan, now aged 21, says she is "incredibly happy and grateful to all volunteers."

Since the service started, Hayarpi has been posting regular updates on Twitter, thanking people for taking part in the service.

The initial plan to thwart the deportation order was hatched in secret. Axel Wicke from the Bethal church and community center in The Hague, where the service is taking place, says only a handful of people knew about the idea beforehand so that the family -- who are staying in church accommodation -- wasn't put in danger.

"Back then there was no rota," he told CNN. "After the welcome service, I took over with a couple of parish members."

"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."

He says while the police are not waiting outside the church, the building is being monitored "more closely than usual".

'There is a solution'

The Tamrazyan family's only hope now is for government intervention.

Under Dutch law, there is a provision for a so-called children's pardon for those who have been living in the Netherlands for more than five years. However, Martine Goeman, who is a legal adviser at Defense for Children in the Netherlands, says most applications are declined.

She says there are about 400 children who are in a similar situation to the Tamrazyans, although it's hard to get exact numbers from the government.

"There is a lot of scientific research done which shows that after 5 years, a child cannot be deported without significant damage to their development" she told CNN by phone.

She described the 24/7 service at Bethel church as "quite powerful" adding that it points to a groundswell in community support for children in similar situations.

"It's not only the church -- it's also the broader community," she said.

"The Minister for Migration could solve (the situation) in one day -- by using his discretionary powers. There is a solution."

In a statement to CNN, a spokesman for Dutch migration minister Mark Harbers declined to comment on the Tamrazyan's case.

He said the minister can intervene in cases involving "very specific, exceptional and urgent circumstances".

However, he added: "Factors such as a long period of residence in the Netherlands and enrollment in education in the Netherlands are not sufficiently exceptional circumstances."

Theo Hettema says there are "behind-the-scenes" talks ongoing with the government about the case, which he declined to discuss in public for fear of jeopardizing the process.

Until then, the service continues.

Reverend Joost Roselaers, who's one of the pastors taking part in leading the service, says taking care of refugees is a very clear part of his Christian faith.

"How long it will take? Well, only God knows. Let's hope before Christmas," he said. "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."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 110592

Reported Deaths: 3171
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds7731171
DeSoto655177
Harrison478481
Jackson429178
Rankin380086
Madison371092
Lee339279
Forrest292777
Jones281682
Washington250697
Lafayette241342
Lauderdale2329130
Lamar212038
Bolivar197775
Oktibbeha194154
Neshoba1795111
Lowndes173662
Panola164736
Leflore158786
Sunflower156749
Warren151854
Monroe143672
Pontotoc143019
Pike135555
Lincoln133954
Copiah133336
Marshall130026
Coahoma122836
Scott122729
Grenada119637
Simpson117648
Yazoo116933
Union113825
Holmes113060
Tate112339
Leake111839
Itawamba108724
Pearl River107456
Adams104042
Prentiss100919
Wayne97921
Alcorn94412
George93217
Marion92642
Covington90825
Tippah84820
Newton84227
Chickasaw81724
Tallahatchie81725
Winston81421
Tishomingo78640
Hancock76527
Attala76325
Clarke70948
Clay66621
Jasper66016
Walthall63427
Calhoun60912
Noxubee59516
Smith57716
Claiborne53016
Montgomery52723
Tunica51817
Lawrence48914
Yalobusha47914
Perry47522
Carroll45812
Greene44717
Stone44614
Amite41513
Quitman4096
Humphreys39916
Jefferson Davis39311
Webster36313
Wilkinson32920
Kemper31615
Benton3004
Sharkey27714
Jefferson26210
Franklin2283
Choctaw2036
Issaquena1063
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 152272

Reported Deaths: 2621
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson22300372
Mobile14273314
Tuscaloosa9886132
Montgomery9615196
Madison895192
Shelby700260
Lee643066
Baldwin636967
Marshall425348
Calhoun408459
Etowah399149
Morgan393232
Houston362332
DeKalb313326
Elmore308152
St. Clair276742
Limestone268327
Walker264192
Talladega253634
Cullman223923
Lauderdale204340
Autauga198928
Franklin198131
Jackson197914
Russell18993
Colbert188927
Dallas184527
Blount182723
Chilton178731
Escambia170328
Covington164429
Coffee16299
Dale161551
Pike130112
Tallapoosa126986
Chambers126643
Clarke126116
Marion103929
Butler99640
Barbour9819
Marengo96421
Winston88613
Geneva8297
Pickens79317
Randolph79314
Lawrence78830
Bibb78513
Hale73729
Cherokee71414
Clay70312
Lowndes69827
Bullock63417
Henry6286
Monroe6259
Washington62012
Crenshaw58830
Perry5796
Conecuh55413
Wilcox55412
Fayette54012
Macon52819
Cleburne5207
Sumter46421
Lamar4555
Choctaw38612
Greene33316
Coosa1963
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Clear
66° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 66°
Columbus
Clear
65° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 65°
Oxford
Overcast
66° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 66°
Starkville
Clear
61° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 61°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather