Bethel Church began the three-month vigil to protect an Armenian family from being arrested and deported. The nonstop 96-day vigil, which began on October 26, finally ended yesterday, Wednesday, January 30, after its organizers received confirmation that a family of refugees sheltering inside the church would no longer face immediate deportation from the Netherlands.
The church was able to protect the five members of the Tamrazyan family by taking advantage of a Dutch law that forbids the police to interrupt church services.
The vigil was the longest religious ceremonies ever recorded, lasting for more than three months and involving nearly 1,000 pastors and priests.
Pastors from across Europe visited Bethel to participate in the service, many with several members of their congregations in tow, while more than 250,000 people signed a petition calling for a change to the law under which hundreds of families like the Tamrazyans could have been deported, The New York Times reports.
“This is just the beginning,” Derk Stegeman, one of the organizers of the Bethel service, said in a telephone interview after it had ended.
“I hope it’s a new way of being a church — a new way of having an impact on society, a new way of standing up for vulnerable people,” said Mr. Stegeman, a Protestant Church pastor who has acted as a spokesman for the Tamrazyans.”
The church decided that the service could be safely ended after a grand compromise between the four parties of the Netherlands’ governing coalition. The parties provisionally agreed on Tuesday that up to 700 families who had been previously listed for deportation, despite having lived in the Netherlands for more than a decade in some cases, could have their cases reassessed.