‘If you want to make peace, you can’t just do it with the nice people. Nice people don’t cause the wars’
By Dan Wooding, Founder of the ASSIST News Service
LONDON, UK (ANS – November 18, 2015) – Canon Andrew White, the UK-born Anglican priest who is affectionately known as “Vicar of Baghdad”, has dedicated his life to making peace.
For many years he headed St. George’s Church in Baghdad, located in one of Iraq’s deadliest sectors, he has watched hundreds from his congregation killed or tortured.
Raised a Pentecostal, he says that more than 1,200 men, women and children who worshipped with him have been killed in recent years, he says. Four boys he knew were beheaded because they refused to swear allegiance to Islam. The church caretaker was forced to watch as his five-year-old boy was cut in half.
White has captured by terrorists, and also survived death threats, as well as a huge price on his head, all while battling his own debilitating multiple sclerosis.
Eventually, White had to be ordered to leave Baghdad by his close friend the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby.
“He said to me, ‘Andrew, look, what you are doing is so important and the reality is you are more use alive than dead. Come out of there. Don’t die.’” he revealed in a recent interview in London with Cole Moreton in The Independent (http://www.independent.co.uk).
White says that his new home in in Jordan, and says, “I see myself as the pastor of the Iraqi refugee community in Jordan. I am providing them with food, housing, education for their children and a clinic to give them healthcare.”
It was during his extraordinary interview with Morton, shortly before the deadly Paris terrorist attacks, that he revealed his views about the only way to deal with Islamic State, also known as ISIS.
White said that there used to be 1.5 million Christians in Iraq but now there are only 260,000.
“Some are calling it genocide. Surely he no longer believes that negotiations with ISIS could work?” Moreton told White, who then replied, “Can I be honest? You are absolutely right. You can’t negotiate with them. I have never said that about another group of people. These are really so different, so extreme, so radical, so evil.”
So what is to be done? “We must try and continue to keep the door open. We have to show that there is a willingness to engage. There are good Sunni leaders; they are not all evil like ISIS,” he said.
White then made his dramatic statement, saying, “You are asking me how we can deal radically with ISIS. The only answer is to radically destroy them. I don’t think we can do it by dropping bombs. We have got to bring about real change. It is a terrible thing to say as a priest.
“You’re probably thinking, ‘So you’re telling me there should be war?’ Yes!”
He went on to say, “It really hurts. I have tried so hard. I will do anything to save life and bring about tranquility, and here I am forced by death and destruction to say there should be war.”
Moreton wrote that “some will be outraged by the views of the Anglican priest, but Canon White does not care. He really does believe in loving his enemies – even when they put a price on his head, and when war seems inevitable.”
White concluded by saying, “Sometimes the impossible can happen. “If you want to make peace, you can’t just do it with the nice people. Nice people don’t cause the wars.”
At present, Andrew White is on tour in the UK promoting his new autobiography, My Journey So Far (Lion), and he has a home and a family in Sussex, England, but says these two weeks are his longest visit to Britain in years.
Photo captions: 1) Canon Andrew campaigning for the release of five British citizens kidnapped in 2007 in Baghdad (Getty) Canon Andrew White in his Baghdad church office (Rex. 3) Cover of his latest book. 4) Dan Wooding reporting for ANS from outside the Kurdistan Parliament in Erbil, Northern Iraq.
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 74, is an award-winning winning author, broadcaster and journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, and is now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for more than 52 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. Dan is the founder and international director of ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times) and the ASSIST News Service (ANS). He is also the author or co-author of some 45 books, and has reported from many of the world’s hotspots, including Iraq and North Korea.
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