While Americans watched in shock as a CBS News report detailed the near-100 percent abortion rate for unborn babies with Down syndrome in Iceland, people in Iceland were celebrating at an annual diversity festival.
Gunnar Ingi Gunnarsson, the pastor of a small Baptist church in Reykjavík, pointed out the sad irony of this in a column for Christianity Today.
The only Baptist pastor in Iceland, Gunnarsson said abortions have skyrocketed in the country, and very few people – including clergy – speak out against them. He is one of the few who goes against the pervasive atheistic, anti-life beliefs in Iceland and openly advocates for unborn babies’ rights.
We have our work cut out for us. As pro-life advocates around the globe discussed Iceland’s abortion rate for Down syndrome, our country was wrapping up a festival called “Hinsegin dagar,” or “Different Days,” which includes Reykjavik’s gay pride celebration. Contrasting the approach to Down syndrome with this week-long event dedicated to celebrating diversity, I was struck by the narrow kind of diversity our nation has opted to champion.
When society forfeits its appeal to a higher authority and gives itself to humanistic morality, the Christian belief that all have value as image bearers of the one true God of the universe becomes the exception.
Just a handful of children with Down syndrome have been born in Iceland in the past decade. Two are born each year, on average, but the rest are killed in the womb. The abortion rate for unborn babies who test positive for Down syndrome is almost 100 percent, CBS News reported earlier this month.
This deadly discrimination against babies with disabilities is a problem in countries across the world, not just Iceland. In 2014, the Danish government reported 98 percent of unborn babies who tested positive for Down syndrome were aborted. CBS reports the rate in France was 77 percent in 2015, 90 percent in the United Kingdom and 67 percent in the United States between 1995 and 2011. Some put the rate even higher in the United States, but it is difficult to determine the exact number because the U.S. government does not keep detailed statistics about abortion.
Since the CBS report came out, Gunnarsson said the media in Iceland has been attempting to soften the disturbing truth.
“The Icelandic media, taking up the CBS story, have even shifted to use new language around abortion. They use a term suggested by a government think tank—Þungunarrof, which translates to ‘pregnancy discontinuity’—rather than fóstureyðing, ‘fetus termination,’” he wrote.
Gunnarsson said he always has preached about the sanctity of human life, but he is even more passionate about it now after his youngest child was born earlier this year with a genetic abnormality. He did not specify the condition but said it is very rare.
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“People have cheered us on, hoping for the best for our son and us as we seek to live with whatever the future may hold,” he wrote. “I find myself wondering, though, if there was a test for diagnosing his condition, how many of those now cheering for him would’ve decided to end his life in the womb?”
Gunnarsson asked for prayers as he continues to preach Christianity in a very atheistic country. He said Iceland recently was named “the most godless country in Europe” and ranks as the sixth-most atheistic nation in the world.
The work defending human life and preaching the gospel in Iceland is lonely. The young pastor said even some of the churches in Iceland do not condemn abortion.
Iceland’s National Lutheran Church regularly takes to big media platforms to condemn violence in sports such as Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), but in the wake of this news article concerning Down syndrome in Iceland, the silence was deafening. The few priests in the national church who want to stand for truth may take issue with its approach to abortion, but most likely experience pressure not to speak out.
There are a small remnant of churches in Iceland that remain dedicated to Scripture alone as their supreme authority for living and theology. Many have faithfully preached and served for decades, only to experience a decline in interest and attendance. They have grown exhausted in the fight to defend biblical truth.
Gunnarsson said he may lose friends, status and respect in Iceland, but he will not give up fighting for the truth that every human life is valuable to society and to God.