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Dutch church holds 800-hour service to save family from deportation

Dutch church holds 800-hour service to save family from deportation

The Hague: A church in the Netherlands is holding an around-the-clock service that has lasted more than 800 hours, to shield an Armenian family from deportation.

Under Dutch law, police officers are not permitted to enter a church while a religious service is taking place, CNN reported on Thursday.

For more than a month, hundreds of pastors and volunteers from across the country have been meeting to maintain the 24/7 service in support of the family whose asylum claim has been rejected.

Theo Hettema, chairman of the General Council of Protestant Ministers in the Netherlands, told CNN the service will continue "as long as it's necessary".

"We want to love God and our neighbour. And we thought that this was a clear opportunity to put the love for our neighbour into reality," he said.

The family, including three children, fled Armenia and have been living in the Netherlands since April 2010 while their claim for political asylum was being decided.

But their case was rejected and were asked to leave the country.

The initial plan to thwart the deportation order was hatched in secret.

Axel Wicke from the Bethal church and community centre in The Hague, where the service is taking place, told CNN that only a handful of people knew about the idea beforehand so that the family -- who are staying in church accommodation -- wasn't put in danger.

He says while the police were not waiting outside the church, the building was being monitored "more closely than usual".

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