Iceland: Church solidarity with displaced people following threat of volcanic eruption

14 Nov 2023

Iceland’s Lutheran church leaders and country’s President emphasize “no one has to be alone” and “we will get through this,” as they welcome people evacuated from the town of Grindavík which is threatened by volcanic eruption.

Grindavik church

Grindavik church. Photo: ELCI

Bishop Sigurðardóttir and President Jóhannesson offer reassurance during church service  

(LWI) – Amid a national emergency over threat of volcanic eruption near and beneath the southwestern town of Grindavik, Bishop Agnes Sigurðardóttir of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Iceland (ELCI) and the country’s President Dr Guðni Th. Jóhannesson have stressed the importance of solidarity and support in the face of such grave happenings that come as a shock to the whole community. 

“Together we will get through this, as we have before,” said President Jóhanneson, in his speech during an open worship service in the ELCI’s Hallgrímskirkja church in the capital city of Reykjavík, where displaced people from Grindavík were especially welcomed. The ELCI bishop also addressed worshippers, who filled Iceland’s largest church building to show solidarity and support for the inhabitants of Grindavík, who were evacuated early on 11 November due to the risk of volcanic eruption.  

The Grindavík congregation pastor Rev. Elínborg Gísladóttir presided at the service and the church choir led the congregation in singing. She is among those displaced and stressed the utter shock for everyone who had to leave their home and belongings. “Now as we enter into the first few days since we had to leave, the situation is becoming real. We have no idea if or when we can return to our homes. In these circumstances it becomes vital that we meet each other, like here in the church today, to show one another that no one has to be alone during this difficult time,” added Gísladóttir. The ELCI has extended an offer of psychosocial support to the inhabitants of Grindavík and is working with local authorities in its response. 

“It becomes vital that we meet each other, like here in the church today, to show one another that no one has to be alone during this difficult time,”

– Rev. Elínborg Gísladóttir, Evangelical Lutheran Church of Iceland

For weeks the inhabitants of Grindavík have experienced a series of earthquakes, often numbering hundreds per day, that have caused grave damage to houses and infrastructure. A big magma tunnel has been forming under the Reykjanes peninsula, which goes right under the small fishing town, and specialists detect increased risk of eruption. Icelandic authorities declared a state of emergency and ordered the evacuation of the town to ensure the safety of inhabitants.  

Grindavík is home to about 3,400 people of different nationalities, as many fishing industries are stationed there because of the good natural harbor that has also been strengthened and built up.

LWF/Kristín Tómasdóttir