Wednesday, December 12, 2018

A Dutch Church Service That Doesn't End

Good religion news is not abundant in contemporary secularized western Europe. Yesterday's NY Times, however, contained some good, indeed edifying, news in a story "To Protect Migrants From Police, a Dutch Church Service Never Ends." 

(To access it online, go to:

The story is about a marathon church service that started some six weeks ago in The Hague's Bethel Church as a way of shielding one immigrant family of Armenian refugees from deportation. So far, more than 550 clergy from some 20 denominations have taken turns keeping the service going, taking advantage of a Dutch law (leftover, no doubt, from that kingdom's once vibrant Protestant religious culture) that prohibits police from arresting someone during a religious service.

According to the Times article, the story began in a seaside town southwest of Amsterdam, where the Tamrazyan family ended up after the father was forced to flee Armenia for political reasons in 2010. Over the years, Dutch officials twice tried to deny the family asylum, and were twice defeated in court, but finally won on its third attempt. To avoid deportation to danger back in Armenia, the family took refuge in a local church. When that church ran out of resources to help them, the leadership of The Hague’s Bethel Church welcomed the family, and has been providing education for the children who can no longer safely attend school outside. The Protestant Church in the Netherlands has endorsed this effort and publicized it.

So far, the Dutch government has refused to back down. So it is hard to see how this will end. Meanwhile, however, the Church keeps doing its job as best it can - visible even in super-secularized western Europe.

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