A church in the Netherlands has found an inventive way to stymie the government’s efforts to deport a family of asylum seekers. Since October 26, the congregation of Bethel, a church in The Hague, has held a continuous worship service. Police forces in the Netherlands are not permitted to enter churches during worship services.
After hearing that a refugee family faced imminent deportation, a Netherlands church sprung into action ― and members have continued stepping up for over one month.
Bethel, a church and community center in The Hague, has taken dramatic steps to protect the Tamrazyans, an Armenian family of five asylum-seekers who have lived in the Netherlands for nine years. The government has reportedly denied the family’s asylum request and approved them for deportation ― even though there’s a law in place that allows children who have lived in the country for over five years to be eligible for a residence permit, if they also fulfill other requirements. The Tamrazyans applied for a permit under that law and were denied, according to Bethel.
“Hoe ziet dat er eigenlijk uit, als mensen nu al bijna 80uur lang aan het bidden en aan het zingen zijn, om een Armeens gezin voor uitzetting te beschermen?”
Nou, zo dus:#KerkasielBethel pic.twitter.com/FGVBi7Touy
— Axel Wicke (@elziax) October 29, 2018
One of the loudest criticisms about martyred missionary John Chau is that he broke the law, violating Romans 13:1. In case you’re unfamiliar with that verse, Paul commands, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” Without a doubt, Bethel is not only encouraging the Tamrazyans to break the law, but the congregation is aiding and abetting them in doing so. So, is it hypocritical for conservative Christians to defend American missionary John Chau’s disregard for India’s laws while criticizing Bethel’s disregard of the Netherlands’ laws?
For the record, my negative response is in a vacuum. There are variables that could cause me to answer “yes.” I have publicly called for governments to provide asylum for Asia Bibi and her family. And, if Bibi and her family were to somehow make their way to my church, I think that I would do what I could to keep them from being deported, even if that meant breaking the law. God’s law prioritizes life. And that’s the reason for answering “no” to my question above.
John Chau broke the law because he desired to bring life to the Sentinelese — eternal life found through repentance of sin and faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In the case of Bethel, immigration laws, while possibly wrong-headed or even distasteful, require a more nuanced conversation. For example, a conversation around whether people have the right to live in another country or not. Conversations outside the scope of this article. My point is that deportation, while possibly not ideal, does not necessarily mean imminent death. And this is where Christians need to submit to the “governing authorities,” even if they don’t like it.
According to the HuffPost article linked to above, Bethel is defying the deportation order to protect “the rights of a child.” Even if I were to disagree with the Netherlands’ reasons, the government has turned down the asylum request. The Bible does not teach that the child has an innate right to live in the Netherlands. Even if the government is acting selfishly, the congregation at Bethel has a responsibility before God to obey their governing authorities.