Dutch pastor praises faith of refugee family

The Tamrazyan family arrived in the Netherlands from Armenia nine years ago. Photo: Peter Wassing
The Tamrazyan family arrived in the Netherlands from Armenia nine years ago. Photo: Peter Wassing

The family spent 97 days inside a Protestant church before being granted right to remain in the Netherlands

(LWI) - The head of the Protestant Church in the Netherlands (PCN) has praised the faith of a family that took refuge inside a Dutch church and spent over three months there waiting for their asylum request to be granted.

The Tamrazyan family arrived in the Netherlands from Armenia nine years ago and had applied for a so-called ‘kinderpardon’, allowing families with children to remain in the country. When their appeals ran out and deportation seemed imminent, the parents and their three children, aged 21, 19 and 15, took advantage of a medieval law which bars immigration authorities from entering a church if a service is in progress.

Supported by their church leaders, pastors and volunteers at the small Bethel Chapel, in a quiet, residential district of The Hague, welcomed the family and organized a continuous rota of worship services for the next 97 days. Over 650 pastors, priests and preachers from different churches and denominations all over the Netherlands led the services that received worldwide media attention and were attended by over 12,000 visitors.

At the end of January, the Dutch government agreed to grant residency rights to the family and to review the cases of 700 other children currently threatened with deportation. The majority of those families are also expected to be allowed to remain in the country.

“The biblical call to love God above all, and to love your neighbour as yourself, is key for the Protestant church in its stand to find a humane solution for the refugee issue.”
Rev. Dr Renè de Reuver, head of the Protestant Church in the Netherlands (PCN)

Rev. Dr Renè de Reuver, head of the PCN, which is a member of The Lutheran World Federation (LWF), gave thanks to the Tamrazyan family “for what they have given us.” As he presided over the last hour of non-stop services, he said he was relieved by the agreement but pledged to continue to fight for the rights and dignity of all refugees. “The biblical call to love God above all, and to love your neighbour as yourself, is key for the Protestant church in its stand to find a humane solution for the refugee issue”, he said.

Christianity took root in Armenia in the first century AD and in 301 AD it became the first country to adopt the Christian faith as a state religion.

Before leaving the Chapel, Hayarpi Tamrazyan, the eldest daughter who studies at Holland’s Tilburg University, wrote a poem about the family’s ordeal. It concludes with the words:

There is peace in the Bethel

Light in darkness

Hope in the eyes

There is much love

As a gift

Of God’s presence here

And there is safety

In this house of God, Bethel

We are safe in the arms of Jesus

 

Contributed by Praxedis Bouwman, edited by LWF Communications.