YMCA/YWCA Iceland Issues Apology Over Founder’s Abuse

Friðrik Friðriksson

Following witness testimonies in October, YMCA/YWCA Iceland has acknowledged that Reverend Friðrik Friðriksson, founder of the organisation, sexually harassed boys and overstepped their boundaries. The board of YMCA/YWCA Iceland issued an apology this morning.

Witnesses invited to share experiences

In late October, a book authored by historian Guðmundur Magnússon alleged that Reverend Friðrik Friðriksson, the founder of YMCA/YWCA Iceland (a non-profit and non-governmental youth organisation based on the life and teaching of Jesus Christ), had made sexual advances towards a minor.

The leadership of YMCA/YWCA Iceland stated that they were shocked by the allegation and invited those who had been subjected to sexual harassment or abuse by Friðrik, or those who had information about such incidents, to come forward and share their experiences.

Beyond a reasonable doubt

In a statement published on Facebook and in the newspaper Morgunblaðið today, YMCA/YWCA Iceland has concluded that Reverend Friðrik Friðriksson sexually harassed boys and overstepped their boundaries. A formal channel had been opened with the assistance of two experienced professionals:

“Through this channel, testimonies have now emerged, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Reverend Friðrik Friðriksson, founder of YMCA/YWCA Iceland, exploited his respected position to overstep boundaries in interactions with boys and sexually harassed them. YMCA/YWCA Iceland hereby sincerely apologise to the victims,” the statement reads. “We regret that the organisation was not aware of the founder’s behaviour at the time, as Reverend Friðrik passed away in 1961.”

“The board of YMCA/YWCA Iceland thanks the many who have concerned themselves with the matter and have in various ways contributed to this reckoning with the past.”

The statement concludes by saying that the organisation does not condone sexual harassment or abuse, and the safety and welfare of children are of utmost priority.

“We make very strict demands on those who work with children and youth in our organisation. They must, among other things, undergo thorough background checks and receive training and education on ethical standards, child protection, and boundaries in interactions.”

In November, the Reykjavík City Council voted to remove the statue of Séra Friðrik from downtown Reykjavík and put it into storage.

Bishop Reprimands Reverend for Harsh Rebuke of Government

Bishop of Iceland Agnes M. Sigurðardóttir.

Bishop of Iceland Agnes M. Sigurðardóttir has formally reprimanded reverend Davíð Þór Jónsson for his criticism of the government on Facebook. Despite the admonishment, the reverend has continued to express strong disapproval of the government’s plan to deport nearly 300 asylum seekers.

“A special place in hell”

On Tuesday, May 24, Reverend Davíð Þór Jónsson of Laugarneskirkja in Reykjavík published a post on Facebook in which he criticised the government’s plans to deport an inordinate number of asylum seekers. Davíð Þór stated that the government had decided to “piss all over” the UN’s Conventions on the Rights of the Child and, in reference to the Left-Green Movement, observed that there was “a special place in hell” for individuals who sold their soul for power and advancement.

The reverend’s words did not sit well with Bishop of Iceland Agnes M. Sigurðardóttir. A press release published on the church’s website on Wednesday noted that the Bishop had formally reprimand Davíð Þór as she considered the reverend’s statements “harsh and in poor taste;” the church’s code of conduct requires that priests be “objective in their rhetoric.”

The press release further noted that the Bishop viewed the matter as being “resolved,” while iterating Agnes’ call for “humaneness and mercy” in matters concerning asylum seekers in Iceland.

“Pharisees, hypocrites”

Despite these admonishments, Reverend Davíð Þór continued his criticism of the government on Wednesday, this time referencing the Book of Matthew:

“Woe to you, Torah scholars and Pharisees, hypocrites! … You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape the sentence of hell? Because of this, I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify, and others you will flog in your synagogues and persecute in town after town. And so upon you will come all the righteous blood shed on earth …
Pharisee: these words judge themselves.”

The reverend’s concluding words may be interpreted as a jab at Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir, Chairman of the Left-Green Movement – and the reverend’s former partner; earlier this week, Katrín Jakobsdóttir was asked to respond to reverend Davíð Þór’s criticism and observed that “his statements judge themselves.”

MP expresses disbelief

The fate of the asylum seekers remains to be determined. In an interview with RÚV yesterday, MP Arndís Anna Kristínardóttir Gunnarsdóttir of the Pirate Party expressed disbelief that the government and ministers would follow through with its planned deportation of nearly 300 asylum seekers.

Referring to a recent report by the Red Cross, Arndís Anna observed that what awaited the asylum seekers, in the event that they were deported to Greece, was “hopelessness, lack of rights, destitution, insecurity, deprivation, homelessness, prejudice, and discrimination.”