Dutch church holding 24/7 mass service to save migrant family from deportation by police

Dutch church holding 24/7 mass service to save migrant family from deportation by police

A CHURCH in the Netherlands is holding a non-stop mass service that has already lasted more than 800 hours to prevent the deportation of a migrant family who were denied asylum.

Under Dutch law, police officers are prohibited from entering places of worship while a religious ceremony is underway.

So, clergymen from across the country have been meeting to maintain a 24/7 service at Bethel Church in The Hague since October 28, to support an Armenian family whose asylum claim has been rejected.

The Tamrazyan family, including two parents and three children, have been living in Holland since April 2010 while their claim for political asylum was being processed.

But despite claims they would be in danger if returned to the homeland they fled almost nine years ago, the family were denied asylum and have been ordered to leave the country.

According to church officials, over 400 pastors from across the nation have pitched in to keep the mass going in support the family so far.

"We are not doing it on our own. We started with a small group and it was in secret that we prepared this service," Bethel pastor Derk Stegeman told CBC.

"But when we had started it and we asked for help, we were overwhelmed by enormous movement in our church.

"For us, it's a big job, but it's also a fruitful experience and there's a lot of joy and a lot of people are meeting one another".

Stegeman added: "But for the family, it's really heavy, all the uncertainly about the future.

"We are doing it to show to ourselves and to our community, to our government, that civilization and love in life and civilization, it's not by expelling people, expelling children. We are trying to prove that it can be different."

Theo Hettema, chairman of the General Council of Protestant Ministers in the Netherlands, said the around-the-clock service will continue "as long as it's necessary".

He told CNN: "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."

Under Dutch law, restrictions on immigration for families with children who have lived in the Netherlands for five years or more can be lifted in exceptional circumstances.

The Dutch Government has reportedly agreed to discuss the matter with the church, but the Tamrazyans currently remain on the deportation list.