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Andrew White is something of a legend: a man of great charm and energy, whose personal suffering has not deflected him from his important ministry of reconciliation. Andrew grew up in London, the son of strongly religious parents: by the age of five he could repeat the five points of Calvinism. As a child and young man he was frequently ill, but his considerable intelligence meant that his studies did not suffer. He set his heart on becoming an anesthetist, an ambition he achieved, only to be redirected by God to Anglican ministry. Since ordination he has had a considerable role in the work of reconciliation, both between Christian and Jew and between Shi’ite and Sunni Muslim. Often in danger, and always in pain, he has nevertheless been able to mediate between opposing extremes. A man of God, he is trusted by those who trust very few.
For most of his ministry Canon Andrew White has been involved in reconciliation. In The Vicar of Baghdad he wrote, ‘The kind of people I spend my time engaging with are not usually very nice. On the whole, nice people do not cause wars.’ Until he left for Baghdad in 2005 Andrew was Director of the International Centre for Reconciliation in Coventry. The Icr is the centre of a network of over 250 ‘Cross of Nails’ centres around the world, particularly in the Usa and Germany, which serve the cause of reconciliation. Andrew bases his chapters around the Coventry Litany of Reconciliation. Following the bombing of the medieval cathedral in 1940, the words ‘Father Forgive’ were inscribed behind the altar of the ruined building. The Litany concludes: ‘Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ.’
As the minister of St George’s Anglican Church, Baghdad, Andrew White encounters daily tragedy, yet he remains a man of profound faith. Under constant threat of death, shadowed by bodyguards, he builds and encourages and loves and consoles his beleaguered congregation.
In this candid book he squarely answers the questions that his circumstances force into the open. What happened to his faith, for example, when a young girl in his congregation died, after much hope and prayer? He is trusted by all sides in this tormented region, and has met the best and worst: articulate, agreeable imams and rabbis; Christian venality and dishonesty. What has kept him willing to see the best?
This book offers a fresh and distinctive perspective on the impact of conflict and violence on children who are caught up in it, written by someone uniquely placed to witness to it. How does Andrew White, the ‘Vicar of Baghdad’ keep going? Suffering from multiple sclerosis himself, he sustains a tireless, often sleepless ministry running the only surviving Anglican church in Iraq, with a congregation so large that he has to hold services on Saturdays as well as Sundays to accommodate them all. Individual stories are brought together from Bethlehem (known throughout the world as the birthplace of a child). Further stories from Jerusalem, Iraq and North Carolina, from one of Andrew’s own sons in England and from his adopted son in Iraq, give us a child’s eye view of war and its aftermath. This is not only a sobering witness to the effect of war on the innocents caught up in it (and the implications of that for any ‘Just War’ strategy): it is also a powerful testimony to what sustains Andrew White in work that is both difficult and dangerous.
As the vicar of St. George’s Church in Baghdad, the only Episcopalian church in Iraq, Canon Andrew White has worked with those at the highest levels of authority in Iraq, for both Westerners and Iraqis. Now, as political and military solutions continue to fail, Andrew offers a different approach to making peace in the Middle East-speaking as a man of faith to men of faith. In The Vicar of Baghdad he tells the story of his work to create peace through God.
As hostilities in Iraq continue to dominate the media, and the US led coalition’s approach to the war and the reconstruction of Iraq increasingly in question, Andrew White’s is the voice of authority, always realistic but never without hope. But where is hope now? What is the future for Iraq?
This is the fascinating, first-hand account of one man’s deepening involvement over seven years with Iraq. As an envoy for peace, Andrew has dedicated himself to religious and political reconciliation in Iraq and frequently risked his life. In this new edition, Andrew White reflects on whathe has seen in Iraq during his ongoing visits since 2005, including the escalating violence, working with the military and the involvement of the Americans. He also assesses what he considers mistakes in the peace process. Among the more dramatic moments are the trial of Saddam, at which Andrew was present; the abduction of the leaders of St George’s church and their presumed death; and hostage crises including the death of colleagues. Andrew’s personal struggle has been very real, but he describes that even at the worst moments he does not lose hope.