Continuing Dutch worship service a testament of faith

Through both word and action the World Communion of Reformed Churches has demonstrated its support of the Bethel Church (The Hague, Netherlands) as its marathon worship service continues to protect an asylum-seeking family facing deportation.

Philip Vinod Peacock, WCRC executive secretary for justice and witness, and Hanns Lessing, WCRC executive secretary for communion and theology, worshiped with the church on Monday, 17 December.

The Bethel Church has been holding a constant worship service since 26 October. Under Dutch law, authorities cannot enter a place of worship while services are ongoing. The Armenian Tamrazyan family, who had a request for asylum initially granted and then overturned, has been sheltering in the church.

“The Protestant Church of The Hague respects court orders, but finds itself confronted with a dilemma: the choice between respecting the government and protecting the rights of a child,” says a statement on the church’s website. “The purpose of the church asylum is to create rest and safety for the family and to offer some respite to the family during which we invite politicians to discuss with us the family’s fate.”

During the worship service, Lessing and Peacock offered “our profound gratitude on behalf of the whole of the World Communion of Reformed Churches for the care that you give to the Tamrazyan family and the testimony that you give to the world. We are with you with our prayers and with our solidarity. Your witness is an encouragement for the many uprooted people in our Communion and for the many members of our churches that are working for a world in which migrants are safe and can live a life in dignity.

“Your continuous worship here is an expression of faith that turns to God in a situation where God’s goodness seems less visible. Your gathering, praying and sharing is an expression of your faith that God is present in this world. Your insistence that unjust actions of governments and courts must not have the last word on the well-being of human beings makes your worship in its deep spirituality become very political.

“In the best tradition of our Reformed Church, you testify that also in a secular society the institutions of the state are under God’s will. In the experience of persecution and migration, our churches have learned that governments pursue what is good when they protect the weak and safeguard the livelihood of those who are not protected by citizenship. This witness is as relevant today as it was when it was first expressed in the history of our church.

“The continuous worship service that safeguards the sanctuary for the Tamrazyan family is a very important sign and a confession to God’s goodness. In a situation where it is difficult to believe that the institutions of the government will protect the wellbeing and the livelihood of children and their families, the continuous worship is a strong witness of God’s presence in a scandalous world.”

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