Andrew White (priest)
Bexley, Kent, England
|Education||Ridley Hall, Cambridge|
|Church||Church of England|
|St George's Church, Baghdad|
Andrew White (born 1964) was the vicar of St George's Church, Baghdad, the only Anglican church in Iraq, until his departure, ordered in November 2014 by the Archbishop of Canterbury due to security concerns. Dubbed the "Vicar of Baghdad", White is former president of the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East. He was previously Director of International Ministry at the International Centre for Reconciliation at Coventry Cathedral, England. He qualified and worked as an operating department practitioner prior to becoming ordained. At the age of 33 years he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a condition which for many years affected his mobility and his speech. He has been undergoing a new stem cell treatment for MS at a clinic in Baghdad that utilizes his body's own stem cells and he has said, "It had completely transformed my life." He has had as many as 35 Iraqi bodyguards.
White grew up in Bexley, in the suburbs of south-east London in Kent. His family was very religious, between strict Baptist and Pentecostal. He visited an elderly house-bound woman, and got to know an Anglican priest who visited her to give her communion.
Education and call to the priesthood
White studied at St Thomas' Hospital, London, and qualified as an operating department practitioner in 1985. He worked in anaesthetics and was a member of the cardiac arrest team. He spent a short time in Derby and became an active member of the Elim Pentecostal church there. One day he realised that he had done everything he had set out to achieve and asked himself, "what next?". He decided to become a Church of England priest. He studied theology, training for the priesthood at Ridley Hall, Cambridge, where he decided to learn about Judaism and Islam. He also spent time at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He was ordained in 1990, and became a curate at St Mark's, Battersea Rise in the Diocese of Southwark. During his time at Southwark White had his first appearance on TV when was interviewed on the street by a member of the That's Life! team. He first saw his wife from the pulpit when she was in the congregation, and when six weeks later he asked her to marry him, she initially said "maybe". He later became a vicar of the Church of the Ascension, Balham Hill in the same diocese.
In 1997 – his final year as vicar of the Church of the Ascension – he was a Wandsworth Borough Councillor and served as Deputy Chairman of Social Services.
Director of International Ministry
In 1998, at the age of 33 years, Canon Andrew was appointed a canon at Coventry Cathedral. He was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis about six weeks after moving to Coventry. He became the Director of International Ministry there, heading up the International Centre for Reconciliation, promoting reconciliation in conflicts (mainly religious) across the globe. He concentrated on the Middle East, because he thought that the church needed to be involved there. He remained in this post until 2005, when he moved to Baghdad to become Anglican Chaplain to Iraq.
Canon Andrew White mediated in the release of the late Jaweed Al-Ghussein elected Chairman of the Palestine National fund and CEO of Cordoba Group. Al-Ghussein, a strong and vocal advocate of the rule of law, was kidnapped from Abu Dhabi with the compliance of Sheik Hamadan Bin Zayed and Sheik Seif Bin Zayed. Al-Ghussein's abductions were the subject of a UN determination that placed his case in category 1, the highest and appointed a rapporteur on Special Torture. Denied access to the Red Cross in Gaza, Canon Andrew White was able to visit him and eventually through his position as Special Envoy mediated Jaweed Al-Ghussein's release back to the UK.
"Vicar of Baghdad"
In Iraq, Canon Andrew lived in Baghdad until November 2014, serving as the vicar of St George's Church just outside the Green Zone. He formerly lived in the Green Zone. He has been dubbed "Vicar of Baghdad", because his church is the only remaining Anglican church in Iraq. His people (the congregation of St George's) refer to him as their "Aboona" (Father). Here, he has continued the reconciliation that he promoted during his time as Director of International Ministry at Coventry Cathedral. The Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East was established in 2005 as part of his reconciliation work in Iraq and the Middle East as a whole.
In November 2014 the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, ordered his departure due to the increased security risks and the Church of England's no hostage policy.
His main aim has been to try to maintain communication between Shia and Sunni leaders, and to "gain trust of key religious leaders on both sides in various conflict areas". He sees his role as trying to mediate and re-establish the dialogue between conflicting groups.
Canon Andrew's lay pastor was kidnapped in April 2007; however, he 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 11 July 2007, Canon Andrew arrived in Britain after having fled Iraq following warnings of threats to his life, but returned later on. He is no stranger to danger, having been "hijacked, kidnapped, locked up in rooms with bits of finger and toe and things." He has "been held at gunpoint, been attacked – the usual thing"! Many of his staff have been kidnapped or killed, with up to 11 killings of staff in a single year.
White's work is paid for partly by supporters and formerly by his Foundation. He resigned from the Foundation citing ill health in October 2016. Security is a key issue in his work, and he has said that he has had up to 35 armed guards assigned to protect him.
Canon Andrew's brother died on 31 August 1997. His body was found washed up by the sea, and White assumes that he probably jumped off a cliff, although the cause of death has not been established officially and was given an open verdict.
At the age of 33 years, Andrew was examined for poor vision and balance problems about six weeks after he became a canon at Coventry Cathedral. He was hospitalised, and a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis was given to him on the same day his second son was born. Being in the same hospital as his wife, he was able to attend the birth. His wife and two sons live in the southeast of England.
Canon Andrew has five adopted Iraqi children.
Canon Andrew does not know anyone else who would do his work, because of the long-term relationships he has in the Middle East and his religion. Through his work he has become unaccustomed to a normal civilian life, and has said that he would find life in London boring.
- Special Envoy to the Middle East – for the Archbishop of Canterbury, The Most Revd. and Rt. Hon. George Carey
- Director of International Ministry and Canon Residentiary – International Centre for Reconciliation, Coventry Cathedral
- Vicar of St George's Church, Baghdad, Iraq
- Eric Lane Fellow (Easter Term 2003) – Clare College, Cambridge
- Emeritus Vicar of St George's Church, Baghdad, Iraq
- Harvard Fellow
- "Iraq: People of Promise, Land of Despair" (2003)
- "Iraq: Searching for Hope" (2005)
- "By The Rivers of Babylon" (2008)
- "The Vicar of Baghdad" (2009)
- "Suffer the Children" (2010)
- "Faith Under Fire" (2011)
- "Father, Forgive" (2013)
- "The Older Younger Brother, The Tragic Treatment of the Jews by the Christians" (2014)
- My Story So Far (2015)
White has also written widely on issues of inter-faith activity, conflict resolution, Middle East affairs and relations between Islam, Judaism and Christianity.
- Liverpool Hope University Hon DD 2017
- Wycliffe College, University of Toronto Hon DD
- The Anne Frank Award (2014)
- The William Wilberforce Award (2014)
- The Sternberg International Council of Christians and Jews Prize (jointly with Lord Coggan) (1991)
- Anglo-Israel Association Prize (2001)
- Sir Sigmund Sternberg Inter-Faith Prize (2003)
- Interfaith Award, British Government (2003)
- Peacemaker in Action Award, The Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding, United States (2005)
- US Cross of Valor (2006)
- The Woolf Institute of Abrahamic Faiths, Cambridge, Peace Prize (2007)
- Iraq Peace Prize 2010
- The International Civil Courage Prize (2010)
- Honorary Phd University of Gloucestershire (2010)
- Knight Grand Cross and Spiritual Protector of the Order of St George (2011)
- Grand Commander of the Order of Merit of the Knights Templar International (2003).
- Companion of Honour of the Knights Templar International OSMTH/SMOTJ (2002).
- True Freedom Prize of the USA 2012
- 2012 Ultimate Christian Library Book Award for ‘Faith Under Fire'
White was awarded the Anglo-Israel Association Prize for his contribution to furthering understanding between the British and Israeli nations. He was awarded the Sternberg Inter-Faith Prize for his work in promoting good relations between Judaism, Islam and Christianity.
- Mr Andrew White (1964–1990)
- The Revd Andrew White (1990–1998)
- The Revd Canon Andrew White (1998–present)
- Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East official Website
- ""The Vicar of Baghdad" -- Canon Andrew White".
- Angela Levin (25 December 2010). "If I can dodge the bullets in Baghdad, then I'll certainly never give in to MS | Mail Online". London: Dailymail.co.uk. Retrieved 6 August 2012.
- "The Choice featuring Andrew White". The Choice. 2 September 2008. BBC. BBC Radio 4.
- "Onward, Christian soldier", The Telegraph's interview of Canon White, 14 June 2005
- "The Vicar of Baghdad" (A documentary by Rageh Omaar). Mentorn & Al Jazeera. First screened 25 May 2008 on ITV1. Available online here 
- "E/CN.4/2003/68/Add.1 of 27 February 2003". Unispal.un.org. Retrieved 6 August 2012.
- "Jaweed al-Ghussein". London: Telegraph. 2 July 2008. Retrieved 6 August 2012.
- Sandra Harris (11 July 2008). "Obituary: Jaweed al-Ghussein | World news". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 6 August 2012.
- Profile: Canon Andrew White, BBC News
- Profile: Canon Andrew White, Times Online, 4 July 2007
- Vicar flees Baghdad after threats Archived 16 March 2008 at the Wayback Machine., Episcopal Life Online, 12 July 2007
- The Vicar of Baghdad: Through the valley of the shadow of death, Times Online, 22 May 2008
- "The Vicar of Baghdad". Vice Media, Inc. 8 July 2014.