Bishop of Iceland Agnes M. Sigurðardóttir says the church will continue to show compassion for those in need, and are not breaking the law by doing so.
“It was not our intent, nor will it ever be our intent, that the church works against law and order in this country,” she told radio show Reykjavík siðdegis yesterday. “All the points of view that have been said and written about this case have every right to exist. However, the church will continue to stand by those who are disadvantaged. The church will support compassion in the name of love.”
Here she refers to last week, when the Laugarneskirkja church, with the blessings of the Bishop of Iceland, provided sanctuary to asylum seekers facing deportation. Police would later enter the church and encounter no resistance as they led out Iraqi asylum seekers facing deportation.
The event sparked considerable criticism from some, with Independence Party MP Brynjar Níelsson calling for the church to lose its funding, erroneously accusing them of obstructing justice.
As can be seen in the video below, at no time did any church officials obstruct the police as they dragged out and handcuffed an Iraqi teenager, who has subsequently been deported to Norway, from where he will in all likelihood be sent to Iraq (article continues after video):
Kristín Þórunn Tómasdóttir, the parish priest of Laugarneskirkja church, told reporters she was baffled by Brynjar’s remarks, as they do not hold up to scrutiny, especially in light of the above video.
“By coming together for this moment in church, we were symbolically and practically showing support for people seeking refuge,” she told reporters. “We were also expressing our hope that the ancient custom of church sanctuary could influence the state to change the policies regarding asylum seekers, stop the assembly-line deportations of people seeking international protection in Iceland, and instead take a responsible, meaningful stance.”
The deported Iraqis are currently sitting in Norwegian jail, where they face almost certain deportation to southern Iraq. Raisan Shihmani, an asylum seeker who fled Iraq in September 2015 and has been in Iceland for seven months now, told The Grapvine last week he recently received notice that he will be deported to Norway on the grounds of the Dublin Regulation. His friends are amongst the Iraqi asylum seekers already deported to Norway. In protest to his impending deportation – and the deportations of all asylum seekers – he is now on the sixth day of his hunger strike.
In related news, the Independent reports a bomb blast in Baghdad last weekend has killed 165 people, and wounded hundreds of others.