*By Rev. Árni Svanur Daníelsson and Rev. Kristín Þórunn Tómasdóttir
At Laugarneskirkja — one of the many churches of the Lutheran national church in Iceland — Reza, an Iranian Kurd, is sharing the story of how he came to Iceland more than a year ago.
"I was eighteen when I left my country and I applied for asylum in Norway,” he said. “I lived there around seven years and then I came to Iceland. Now Iceland has refused my case and I have to return to Norway. I fear that they will send me back to Iran. I don't have any hope. All I want is a regular life."
In the brief time he has been in Iceland, Reza has made good friends and has made a strong impression on the people active in the church. So have many of the other asylum seekers and refugees who have, since April, taken an active role in the life of the congregation with weekly worship followed by a meal during which they share their stories and experiences. This is called the Seekers Prayer Meeting and is organized by Rev. Toshiki Toma, a pastor for immigrants, and Rev. Kristín Þórunn Tómasdóttir, the pastor in Laugarneskirkja.
Asylum seekers and refugees have also taken part in the Sunday worship in the church and contributed in various ways to the needs of the congregation.
The reality of refugees who have fled their own countries and sought asylum elsewhere has slowly but surely been brought to the attention of the people living in Iceland. Asylum seekers in Iceland have been few in numbers compared to other Nordic countries, but individuals and families have nevertheless conquered the Atlantic, clinging to the hope of a better life.
Reza's story is one of many, but he has opened the eyes of friends and neighbours in the Laugarnes church to the meaning and value of the human experience that meets us in the eyes of those we dare to face and embrace.
At the same time we hear an echo of the words in Matthew 25:40:
"Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."
*Rev. Árni Svanur Daníelsson and Rev. Kristín Þórunn Tómasdóttir are from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Iceland.