'Vicar of Baghdad' to detail Christian Life in Iraq
Canon Andrew White
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Canon Andrew White, an Anglican priest and authority on the Middle East, on Thursday (May 3) will speak about his experiences in Iraq as a Christian clergyman, doctor and statesman.
White's talk will be a firsthand report of conditions in war-torn Iraq and his work to provide for spiritual and medical needs, as well as his direct involvement in sponsoring peace talks through his charity, the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East (FRRME). The presentation, which is free and open to the public, begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Aquinas Educational Foundation at Purdue University, 535 W. State St. A separate reception will follow, including a book signing.
White's work in the Middle East includes several years in Israel and Palestine, a highlight of which was negotiating the end of the Bethlehem siege in 2002. He now works almost exclusively in Iraq, earning him the nickname "the Vicar of Baghdad."
White pastors one of the largest churches in Iraq, St. George Baghdad, which ministers to more than 4,000 Iraqis and operates outside the safety of the International Green Zone. Most of the congregation is women and children – widows and orphans – since many of the men have been killed in the decades of violence in Iraq.
Based in the church compound, the St George Clinic employs medical staff to deliver humanitarian relief, regardless of religious or ethnic backgrounds.
White also frequently engages in conflict mediation in the area and directs the High Council of Religious Leaders in Iraq. Through his relationships, White has brought together leaders of the opposing sectarian factions, and FRRME has sponsored a number of high-level peace talks among them. In meetings chaired by White, the council produced the first-ever joint Sunni/Shia Fatwa against violence in Iraq, which was proclaimed in at least 80 percent of the country's mosques as well as on several popular satellite television channels.
White has been awarded more than 15 international peace prizes, including this year's International First Freedom Prize.
"I have been detained at gunpoint, been thrown into a room with people‘s chopped-off fingers and toes all over the floor, and have had my picture posted on walls around Baghdad with a notice saying, 'Wanted, dead or alive'. Members of my church have been kidnapped or killed. I have lost many friends. It is very difficult, but we never give up," he says.
White studied at St. Thomas Hospital in London, trained for ordination at Cambridge University and also studied at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. While serving as vicar of the Church of the Ascension, Balham Hill, in London, he entered politics and served as a borough councilor acting as deputy chairman of social services.
In 1998 he was installed as the director of international ministry for the Diocese and Cathedral of Coventry, soon being named the Archbishop of Canterbury's special envoy to the Middle East.
For his peacemaking efforts, White has been awarded several significant prizes, including the ICCJ Prize for Intellectual Contribution to Jewish-Christian Relations, the International Sternberg Prize and the Tanenbaum Peace Prize. He also has been awarded the Cross of Valor from the Grand Priory of the United States of the Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem, the Woolf Institute Peace Prize and, most recently, the Train Foundation Civil Courage Prize. He also has written several books and publications.
White's talk is sponsored by the Indiana Commandery of St. Mother Theodore Guerin of the Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem (modern Knights Templar), the Aquinas Educational Foundation and St. Thomas Aquinas, the Catholic Center at Purdue.
Contact: Charles A. Jindrich, Commandery of St. Mother Guerin, 765-583-6305, email@example.com