A short message from Canon Andrew before returning to Iraq.
Originally posted in the York Press
A vicar who works in extraordinarily difficult and dangerous circumstances at the only remaining Anglican church in Iraq is set to visit York. Canon Andrew White, dubbed the “Vicar of Baghdad”, has been hijacked, kidnapped and attacked while working in his role at St George’s Church, outside the Green Zone in Baghdad. He is known for his work in the country as a mediator to maintain communication between Shia and Sunni leaders and to “gain trust of key religious leaders on both sides in various conflict areas”.
“Andrew was aware of the fear that the Iraqi people had of Saddam Hussein’s regime, and supported the invasion of Iraq, but not the aftermath. His lay pastor was kidnapped in April 2007. However, Andrew managed to raise the $40,000 ransom necessary to secure the pastor’s release and soon returned to Iraq, where he stays most of the time. On July 11, 2007, Andrew arrived in Britain after having fled Iraq following warnings of threats to his life, but returned later. Many of his staff have been kidnapped or killed, with up to 11 killings of staff in a single year.”
Having worked for many years in Israel and Palestine, which included negotiating the end of the Bethlehem siege in 2002, he now works in Iraq.
Canon White, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in his early 30s, also works as president of The Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East (FFRME) which specialises in engaging religious leaders in dialogue. Canon White said: “There is no place in the world that has the profile of the Middle East – constantly in the news and constantly the scene of war. Yet amid the tragedy of the region there are few places that have such wonderful people… In the midst of conflict we seek political, diplomatic and religious solutions.”
On February 6, there will be a workers’ lunch drop-in session from 12.30pm to 1.15pm and a church leaders’ drop-in session from 1.30pm to 2.40pm at St Michael le Belfrey. Drinks will be provided, but visitors should bring a packed lunch to both meetings. There will also be an open meeting from 7.30pm to 9pm at Archbishop Holgate’s CE School in Hull Road.
Today is a big day and I need your prayers.
- First my mother is to have her surgery today, her gall bladder will be removed.
- Secondly today is a major day as tonight I will be presented with the First Freedom Prize at a major dinner with 250 important people and 10 of my friends.
- Finally I am soon to be making a DVD that Congressman Wolf will be sending to all the Church leaders asking them to support our work.
I had a very major meeting with Congressman Wolf yesterday and he told me something I have never heard before. He said I was a rock star and every body needs to hear my voice. He then told me that the world needed to hear my message and if I just stayed in Iraq I would be killed soon.
I thanked him for his comments but told him that I would not be leaving my beloved land and people.
Reposted from Keith Parkin’s blog.
“The prize giving event yesterday was a wonderful event. Hundreds of people at the prize giving dinner and even lots of friends I did not even know were coming. Amb. Bell the foundation president told me that it by far the best prize giving event in his memory. It was such an honour.” Canon Andrew White
Canon Andrew White, aka the “Vicar of Baghdad”, has been awarded the First Freedom Prize for his outstanding work on Middle East peace initiatives and extremely rare to be awarded to a non-Head of State. The citation reads:
2012 INTERNATIONAL RECIPIENT
Canon Andrew White
Dubbed the “Vicar of Baghdad,” The Reverend Canon Andrew White is Vicar of St. George’s Church, the only Anglican Church in Iraq. White is also President of the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East.
Canon Andrew White has built an extraordinary ministry of reconciliation and conflict mediation in the Middle East. In 1998, he was installed as the Director of International Ministry for the Diocese and Cathedral of Coventry. Soon after, White became the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Special Envoy to the Middle East, a very dangerous position in which White’s predecessor, Terry Waite, was kidnapped by Hizbullah and held hostage for over four years.
White was actively involved in the Middle East helping to lead the negotiations during the Siege of the Church of the Nativity in 2002 and helping draft the First Alexandria Declaration of the Religious Leaders of the Holy Land, and the Baghdad Religious Accord, both of which were instrumental in bringing together key religious leaders of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faiths. Since 2005, White has worked almost exclusively as the pastor of St. George’s Church in Iraq, and continues his pioneering reconciliation efforts through The Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East.
In Iraq, Canon White joins his responsibilities of pastoral care with an aggressive interfaith mission to reduce conflict in an insecure environment. The clinic that White’s church sponsors has medical staff from all sects in Iraq and delivers humanitarian relief without regard for the religious or ethnic backgrounds of patients.
White’s standing and reputation with the most senior religious leaders in Iraq has helped him reduce not only violence against Iraq’s increasingly small Christian community, but reduce violence against all Iraqis as well. White uses interfaith dialogue as part of a conflict arbitration strategy in Iraq, trying to gain the trust of key Sunni and Shi’ite Muslim religious leaders as grounds for mediating and re-establishing political dialogue. Through creating relationships of trust and confidence, White has brought together the leaders of the opposing sectarian factions, and his foundation has sponsored a number of high-level peace talks between them. Meetings chaired by White produced the first ever joint Sunni and Shi’ite religious opinion against violence in Iraq, which was read out in at least 80% of the mosques in Iraq.
Too often International Awards and Honours go to unworthy recipients. The Nobel Peace Prize to Obama was a sick joke. The First Freedom Award to Canon Andrew White was a just recognition of his work in the Middle East! Andrew White was accompanied to the Award Ceremony by the lovely Fulla Elia who was looking absolutely stunning!
Previous recipients of this prestigious award include former Czech President Václav Havel for his role in Charter 77 and the Velvet Revolution; as well as three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee Father Elias Chacour, founder of Israel’s Mar Elias Educational Institutions.
First Freedom Center is an American institute that seeks to advance the fundamental human rights of freedom of religion and freedom of conscience.
Photos courtesy of Fulla Elia.
Today I head to the US mainly to be presented this years first freedom prize.
It is a prize mainly won by Heads of State and other major world leaders. The only other British person to win it was Tony Blair when he was Prime Minister for his work on the Northern Ireland peace deal. The reality is that this prize does not compare with last weeks Vicar of the Year :-). This award is being presented for my work towards all religions for religious freedom is very serious as freedom of religion is the very foundation of Human Rights. It is therefore a great honour to receive this award and our pray is that I may always be faithful in my sincere search for religious freedom for all.
You can read more about the prize and the First Freedom Center here.