Service Started at This Church 5 Weeks Ago. It's Still Going On

Dutch Protestant church is trying to protect Armenian refugee family from being deported
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 30, 2018 7:46 AM CST
Church's Plan to Protect Family: a Nonstop Service
Clergy from all denominations have signed up to help keep services going at the Bethel Church.   (AP Photo/Amel Emric)

A Netherlands church service that started before Halloween is still going on—all to keep police away from a family of Armenian refugees who have sought sanctuary there. Sasun and Anousche Tamrazyan and their three children, ages 14, 19, and 21, recently lost an appeal to stay in the country after almost nine years there, which means they're set to be deported. But per Dutch law, cops can't enter places of worship while services are taking place, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation notes, and so the Tamrazyans have been holed up in Bethel Church in the Hague since Oct. 26, where what the New York Times calls a "worship marathon" has been going on since to protect the family. "We do all this by continuously praying, singing, [and] listening to sermons," pastor Axel Wicke tweeted Sunday, adding to the Times that nearly 500 clergy of all denominations, and from around the world, have signed up "to be put on the rotation."

The Tamrazyans were forced to flee Armenia due to death threats because of Sasun Tamrazyan's political activism, Wicke tells the ABC, which notes this is all happening against the backdrop of a growing far-right movement in Europe that doesn't look kindly on refugees. Even though the family initially won asylum, the government tried for the past six years to appeal that ruling, and it recently won on its third try. The family even lost its appeal for a "children's pardon," which under Dutch law offers asylum to refugee kids and their families if they've been in the country for at least five years; less than 8% of those appeals were granted in the Netherlands between May 2013 and April 2016. In the meantime, what the Protestant church calls on its website a "continuous celebration" for the Tamrazyans continues, with all welcome to attend, the Washington Post reports. (A Swede literally took a stand for a refugee on an airplane.)

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