Posts Tagged ‘Iraq’

Anglican Vicar of Baghdad: “Child I baptised cut in half by ISIS”

August 10, 2014

Warning: This is pretty horrific to read.

Andrew White at St George's

Canon Andrew White at St George’s

The five-year-old son of a founding member of Baghdad’s Anglican church was cut in half during an attack by the Islamic State on the Christian town of Qaraqosh.

In an interview today, an emotional Canon Andrew White told ACNS that he christened the boy several years ago, and that the child’s parents had named the lad Andrew after him.

“I’m almost in tears because I’ve just had somebody in my room whose little child was cut in half,” he said. “I baptised his child in my church in Baghdad2. This little boy, they named him after me – he was called Andrew.”

The fact that Andrew’s brother was named George after St George’s Anglican Church in Iraq’s capital demonstrates the strong ties the family had to the church there. The boy’s father had been a founder member of the church back in 1998 when the Canon had first come to Baghdad. Canon White added, “This man, before he retired north to join his family was the caretaker of the Anglican church.”

Though the move north should have proved safer for the Iraqi Christian family, the Islamic State made sure that it became a place of terror. “This town of Qaraqosh is a Christian village so they knew everybody there was part of their target group,” said Canon White. “They [the Islamic State] attacked the whole of the town. They bombed it, they shot at people.”

The Islamic State group captured Qaraqosh overnight Wednesday/Thursday after the withdrawal of Kurdish forces.

The boy’s family, along with many other townspeople, have now fled to Irbil. However, news reports suggest this may be the Islamic State’s next destination.

Anglicans at the forefront of relief

The violent takeover of parts of Iraq by the Islamic State is threatening to bring about what the UN has said would be a “humanitarian catastrophe” in the beleaguered nation.

Canon Andrew White said that Anglicans there have been working hard to provide a lot of support for the Christians who have fled Mosul and Nineveh to the north, as well as the many other minority groups targeted by the Islamic State.

“Anglicans are literally at the forefront of bringing help in this situation and there’s no-one else,” he said adding that the church is supplying much-needed food, water, accommodation and other relief items thanks to financial contributions from supporters overseas. The church’s activities are led by a Muslim, Dr Sarah Ahmed.

“We need two things: prayer and money. With those two we can do something. Without those we can do nothing.”

Those wanting to donate can do so at http://frrme.org/. As regards prayer, Canon White said, “I have three ‘P’s that I always mention which is for Protection, Provision and Perseverance. We need protection, we need to provide for those people and we need to keep going.”

It’s clear from social media posts on Facebook and Twitter that members of the Anglican Communion right across the world are praying for this situation. Many have also indicated their support for persecuted Christians in Iraq by changing their social media avatars to the Arabic symbol for ‘N’ denoting Nazarene which ISIS has been using to identify Christian homes.

Leaders speak out

In recent days, Anglican leaders from countries including Egypt, Wales, Brazil and South Africa have all expressed their dismay at the situation unfolding in Iraq.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, issued the following statement today on the situation in Iraq, shortly before he travelled from the Philippines to Papua New Guinea.

“The horrific events in Iraq rightly call our attention and sorrow yet again. Christians and other religious minorities are being killed and face terrible suffering.

“What we are seeing in Iraq violates brutally people’s right to freedom of religion and belief, as set out under Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is extremely important that aid efforts are supported and that those who have been displaced are able to find safety. I believe that, like France, the United Kingdom’s doors should be open to refugees, as they have been throughout history.

“The international community must document human rights abuses being committed in northern Iraq so that future prosecutions can take place. It is important and necessary for the international community to challenge the culture of impunity which has allowed these atrocities to take place.

“With the world’s attention on the plight of those in Iraq, we must not forget that this is part of an evil pattern around the world where Christians and other minorities are being killed and persecuted for their faith. Only this week I received an email from a friend in Northern Nigeria about an appalling attack on a village, where Christians were killed because of their faith in Jesus Christ. Such horrific stories have become depressingly familiar in countries around the world, including Syria, South Sudan and the Central African Republic.

“We must continue to cry to God for peace and justice and security throughout the world. Those suffering such appalling treatment in Iraq are especially in my prayers at this time.”

Other Christian leaders have also spoken up about the situation in Iraq including Roman Catholics, who, in England and Wales, have designated Sunday, 9 August, as a Day of Prayer for Christians in Iraq. The Syrian Orthodox Patriarch yesterday wrote to the UN, following an emergency meeting of Patriarchs, calling on the UN Security Council to “fulfil their responsibilities in stopping this genocide”.

Notes

1. The brutal, extremist group, which claims to have fighters from across the world, announced the creation of a “caliphate” – an Islamic state – across its claimed territory in Iraq and Syria a month ago. Learn more at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-28116033

2. Baghdad is part of the Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf http://www.cypgulf.org which is part of The Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East, a Member Church of the Anglican Communion.

Originally published by Anglican Communion News Service.

A common cry of Christians not only in Iraq, but across the Middle East, is why has the West forgotten us. That cry could be particularly aimed at churches.

The last few days, the atrocities committed by ISIS, appears to have woken the world up. That documented by Canon Andrew White merely the tip of a very horrific nightmare.

I was shocked when I saw the Kurds withdraw, as they are the only ways capable of taking on ISIS.

At least US, UK, and France had finally decided to act, with both military action against ISIS and humanitarian aid to those most in need.

The Kurds urgently need heavy weapons, ammunition.

The West should have intervened after the First Gulf War, Saddam Hussein was defeated, but the West allowed him to regain control.

With the second Gulf War, the West destabilised the country.

Al Maliki is a disaster as Prime Minister and must be removed.

The atrocities being committed by Israel in Gaza, has led directly to support for ISIS. ISIS has already mounted incursion into Lebanon.

If Israel defeats Hamas, into that void will step ISIS.

In London, Islamist supporters of ISIS, now control a London estate, with the ISIS flag flying over the entrance. Islamists from UK and France are fighting with ISIS. Now UK and France have mounted military attacks on ISIS, we can expect those Islamists if they return, to carry out terrorist attacks in UK and France.

It is wrong, as the media does, to refer to ISIS as a terrorist organisation. They are an insurgency that carries out terrorist atrocities.

Canon Andrew White at Alton Maltings

June 20, 2014
Andrew White Alton book signing

Andrew White Alton book signing

I never knew Alton had a Maltings. Signposting needed from the town centre.

An excellent job done on the interior of the building. Strangely, you enter at rafter level. A large meeting hall (ideal for concerts) and a cafe. I did not explore the lower levels, but was told contained meeting rooms.

Tea was served in paper cups. Not good for the environment. The coffee I was told was single sourced.

Following a blessing in Aramaic, Canon Andrew White started by giving the background of how he came to be in Iraq.

At age ten, he was asked by his teacher, what would he like to be.

An anaesthetist and a priest.

You cannot be both, and you are a Pentecostalist, and they do not have priests.

Andrew was an anaesthetist at St Thomas in London, where he headed the cardiac arrest unit, then gave it up to be a priest.

Christian theology he did not find very interesting,and changed to oriental studies, part of which included studying in Israel at an Ultra-Orthodox University.

He became a curate, then a priest, and was then sent to Coventry, to be part of the peace and reconciliation unit. It had until then focussed on Europe. With his background in the Middle East, it changed focus to Middle East.

He was sent to Iraq, to St George’s Church, an Anglican Church that was derelict.

At first he was not wanted, you are bombing us. No, it is not I who is bombing you.

He had a minder. One day, the minder told him he was invited to dinner. He was to be guest of the two sons of Saddam Hussein. He at first decided to decline the invitation, but his minder pleaded with him to say yes, else he and his family would be executed.

Originally, St George served the diplomats, the military, but when it proved too dangerous, the Iraqis.

First week one hundred, second week two hundred, third week, three hundred, fourth week four hundred. Not bad growth rate, one hundred a week. Eventually six and a half thousand.

More than just a church. A food distribution centre, a school, a clinic.

Several types of service: wacky for the children, Anglican for the Embassy, very formal Catholic for the Iraqis.

The service at St George’s is in Aramaic

Iraq had a very good education system, Iraqis were well educated. It has now collapsed, those with education and the means, have fled the country, leaving behind the poor and uneducated.

More than looking after the church, also involved in peace and reconciliation.

Prior to 2003, there was not a problem of sectarian violence. One was an Iraqi. Now one is a Sunni or a Shia. Under Saddam Hussein, Sunni minority ran the country, now it is a Shia majority.

ISIS aka ISIL is an insurgency and a terrorist organisation. It is well funded, paymasters are Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar.

The country has de-facto broken into three.

In the last year, over 1200 of the congregation of St George has been killed. In the last two weeks, 1000 have been killed.

People fled Baghdad as deemed not safe, back to their homeland, back to Mosul. Minerva is a Christian area. It is this area that has been overrun by ISIS.

Churches need to take much more account of what is happening in the Middle East.

Next week, Andrew returns to Iraq, to begin reconciliation talks with Sunni leaders.

Running the church, its various programmes, reconciliation, all costs money. It is only made possible by the generosity of people in the UK. If every church, held but one collection for the work that is being done, it would make a huge difference.

Sales of books went very well.

The meeting had been publicised in other churches. Farnham Parish Church had a poster in the porch. More though needs to be done communicating with the wider community. The press invited.

The dire situation in Iraq will only improve if the government changes, and is inclusive of all Iraqis, including the Christians, who are the minority of the minority.

The talk was filmed, and it is hoped once edited, to have uploaded to the net possibly as early as Sunday. It will be added here once available.

Andrew White is author of several books, including Vicar of Baghdad and Faith under Fire.

Andrew White is recipient of the Wilberforce Award.

The press must make sure Chilcot reports the whole truth

May 31, 2014
Prime minister Tony Blair meets with American president George W Bush on 7 July 2005

Prime minister Tony Blair meets with American president George W Bush on 7 July 2005

• Promises of “gists” and partial quotes simply won’t cut it. The detail will be where the devil resides. That’s why I have kept up the pressure in parliament via debates and parliamentary questions, and demanded nothing less than complete transparency when it comes to what Blair knew. But there is a way forward. Ed Miliband has often said that under his leadership Labour is determined to learn the lessons of the past and to make a clear break from the New Labour years. What better test of that commitment than for him to make clear his desire to overrule the Cabinet Office on this matter in the public interest and to demand – at the very least – the full disclosure of Tony Blair’s part in the communications.
Caroline Lucas MP
Green Party, Brighton

• Has it occurred to top mandarin Jeremy Heywood (Iraq war whitewash claim, 30 May) that the discipline of transparency, which Bush and Blair felt able to ignore in their private collusion over the Iraq war, is a fundamental tenet of democratic government, which, had it been operating correctly at the time, would probably have saved us from engaging in a gruelling war on a false pretext. Far from protecting the spurious right of prime ministers to deal with presidents in secret, our civil servants – supposedly the sober guardians of democratic virtue – should be using this sorry episode as a pertinent and powerful example of why they should not.
Giles O’Bryen
London

• The decision to withhold information about correspondence and notes of meetings between the British and US governments beggars belief. Has our government learned nothing from the agonies endured by the families of the Hillsborough victims? It’s time that the government realised that it does not rule us, it is there to serve us. We must have full disclosure now.
Joanne Nicholson
Weston super Mare, Somerset

• The press argues strenuously against political interference. The protracted scandal of the Chilcot inquiry demands you now deliver on your fine words. We need your implacable determination to hold the executive to democratic account. You have a duty to the electorate and a moral responsibility to the grieving relatives of fallen soldiers to demand that they hear the truth – the whole truth; not the sanitised, redacted, white-washing truth. President Bush and Mr Blair took us into an illegal war in Iraq. Mr Blair claims what Mr Bush no longer bothers to, that they were drawn reluctantly into a disastrous conflict because of an imminent threat based upon false intelligence that they accepted in good faith. Few voters and no journalists believe this fatuous claim to be true. Even the evidence already published argues forcefully against it. Publication of the conversations between Blair and Bush will almost certainly prove this beyond a shadow of a doubt: which of course explains the endless delays and refusal of transparency. I understand the argument that disclosure will prevent such private’ conversations in the future – good.

If you and your press colleagues do not force the truth out of the unelected Cabinet Office on our behalf you might as well accept any kind of interference politicians choose to impose upon you – for you will have already lost the war. This is an issue worth the odd editor going to jail for.
Keith Farman
St Albans, Hertfordshire

• Dear Messrs Snowden and Assange, using your skill and experience, please could you help us out by publishing the full content of the letters between Blair and Bush leading up to the Iraq invasion?
Joe Collier
Richmond, Surrey

letters to The Guardian on Chilcot Iraq Inquiry whitewash

In a democratic society, it is not for unelected officials, in this case the Cabinet Office, to decide what can and cannot be published. They are the servants of the people, as are Bush and Blair.

An inquiry costing several millions of pounds, a delay of years, and all we are to be offered is a cover up, a whitewash?

A country was taken to war, a country was torn apart by war. At the very least, we deserve to know the truth.

Publish and be damned.

In this internet age, do they really think this report will not get published in full on the net?

Canon Andrew White at St Saviour’s

August 19, 2013
book signing

book signing

It is strange, I had been thinking of meeting with Canon Andrew White, and early hours Sunday morning, I found I had a message that he was at St Saviour’s Church in Guildford.

I had not planned on being in Guildford, but a change of plans, afternoon in Guildford, lunch in Guildford, maybe a walk along the River Wey, then wander along to St Saviour’s for the evening service.

Not quite according to plan. I did not get the roast pork I was looking forward to for lunch, nor did I get my walk along the river, but I did experience a black church called The Upper Room meeting in St Nicolas, and had afternoon tea at Glutton & Glee.

I arrived at St Saviour’s more than half an hour early and was told I was first one.

I was not sure I had the correct evening, as no mention on their website, but on arrival I saw a space had been reserved for Andrew White and there was a notice on the church door.

The service started with music. During rehearsal, they were awful, but during the service far better.

We were then told of the situation in Egypt, or rather were were told half truths.

It is good that a church is recognising the plight of Christians in Egypt and the Middle East as too often they feel ignored and the churches in the West do not give a damn, but what we should also recognise is that the Christians in Egypt especially their leadership, are not a reliable witness to events on the ground and will give a partisan view.

We should not forget, that when people occupied Tahrir Square and refused to leave until Mubarak was overthrown, those who supported Mubarak to the bitter end and condemned the brave people in Tahrir Square, were the leaders of the Christian Church in Egypt. Neither should we forget that Muslims and Christian stood shoulder to shoulder in Tahrir Square.

Morsi betrayed the revolution. He tried to Islamise what is a secular country, betrayal of rights for women, installation of cronies to positions of power. In other words, no different to every corrupt government in the Middle East.

20 million Egyptians took to the streets to overthrow Morsi. A lot of rubbish in the West about the democratic overthrow of Morsi. The will of the people was executed. That is democracy. Democracy is not rule by unaccountable elites, the people reduced to election fodder and having no further say.

But, the overthrow of Morsi, has been hijacked by a military junta.

Attention was drawn to a letter from Bishop Mouneer Hanna Anis. This proved to be little more than a propaganda sheet for the brutal military junta, demonisation of the Muslim Brotherhood.

St Saviour’s need to be very careful that they are not being used as unwitting tools of the military junta.

Morsi supporters, and it is not only the Muslim Brotherhood, have every right to peaceful protest. The response of the junta, to massacre in cold blood several hundred peaceful protesters.

Yes, there has been attacks on Christians, on churches, but these attacks, pre-date the overthrow of Morsi, they are nothing new.

The slaughter of innocent protesters will have only one consequence, it will open the void for Islamic terrorists to step into.

We must hope, that the crimes against humanity being committed by the military junta, are documented and they are brought to justice, in the meantime, all Egyptians must unite to overthrow the junta, otherwise Egypt will descend into bloody civil war.

Coverage of Tahrir Square by mainstream media was poor. Post-overthrow of Morsi much better.

For good coverage turn to Democracy Now, Russia Today and Al Jazeera. On twitter follow Sharif Kouddous.

The pastor leading the service, invited Andrew White to join him, and they discussed what had led Andrew White to where he is today, leading a church in Iraq.

Andrew explained his interest in the Middle East had started when he studied at an ultra-Orthodox university in Israel.

Andrew White started from when he was a curate, then a vicar, and how he had then been asked to head the peace and reconciliation unit at Coventry Cathedral.

Formed out of the ashes of the bombed Coventry Cathedral, the focus had been Europe. Andrew refocused on the Middle East. He had acted as envoy for the then Archbishop of Canterbury, engaging in dialogue with Israelis and Palestinians and encouraging them to talk to each other.

Diagnosed with MS, he was asked to step down from what he was doing. His response was to take over the running of St George’s in Baghdad. His assistant was Justin Welby, now Archbishop of Canterbury.

The church costs over $175,000 a month to run. They have no money, no reserves. They rely entirely on donations, on people inviting Andrew to talk at their church, on buying his books.

The money given on Sunday, and during the week, will all go to FRRME (of which Andrew White is the Founding President).

The church has a school, a medical clinic, feeding programmes, all paid for through donations. All the programmes the church runs are free to all.

Beside the work at the church, Andrew acts as Embassy Chaplain, works on peace and reconciliation between the various factions, advises on security.

FRRME was formed to support the work in Iraq and the Middle East.

Following the reading of the lesson, Andrew White was asked to give the sermon.

Andrew started by blessing the congregation in Ameraic, the language used by Jesus, and the language still used in the Iraqi Church.

His theme was Matthew 24:6-8

You will hear of wars and rumours of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.

For people of Guildford, words in the Bible, for people of Iraq, daily occurrence.

There are rumours of war, there is war, there is bombing, there is killing.

Of the church over 1,250 have been killed.

When people have lost everything they have everything.

The church in Iraq is filled with joy.

To love your friends is easy. We have to learn to love those who are our enemies.

Andrew was once kidnapped. When he looked around, he saw severed fingers and toes.

He has to deal with his friends, who bomb and kill.

When dealing with one of he founders of Hamas, he invited him to dinner. He convinced him to work with a rabbi. When accused of being a Zionist, the founder of Hamas said no, he was walking the path of peace and reconciliation, a very difficult path to walk.

Often asked: How do you deal with Muslims? Easy we love them, we welcome them. The church is over 6,000 people, of which over 600 are Muslim.

When you love can also be very painful, when you see the people you love killed.

Andrew has three adopted Iraqi children. One, Lina, now also his personal assistant, has recently become engaged.

The service lasted almost two hours, but it seemed much shorter. I have known half hour service seem longer.

Too many people spend their lives griping about their lives and never getting off their backsides. Andrew is the exact opposite, faces danger every day, sees more tragedy in a day than most people would see in their lifetime, and yet, he is full of hope, full of joy, and always willing to take risks.

He said when people shake hands and say take care, no, they should shakes hands and and say take risks.

It is unfortunate the service was not filmed. As much my fault as I did not think to ask. It has at least been recorded, or at least the sermon recorded, and possibly the exchange at the beginning. This will be available on the church website.

Andrew then signed books:

I gave Andrew a copy of Manuscript Found in Accra. He said he enjoyed Aleph. He asked me did Paulo Coelho know the new Pope? I said I did not think so, but at a press conference in Athens, Paulo Coelho had been asked two questions, his thoughts on the Catholic Church and of the new Pope. He said there was much wrong with the Catholic Church and that he had high hopes of the new Pope implementing much needed reform.

I also gave Andrew a letter I have had in possession for many months, which a lady had entrusted me to give to him.

A chat with Andrew.

I came away with several signed copies of his latest book, Father, Forgive, one for me, the others I will have pleasure in giving away.

Next year, Andrew is to be awarded the William Wilberforce Prize.

The ideology behind Lee Rigby’s murder is profound and dangerous. Why don’t we admit it?: Tony Blair launches a brave assault on Muslim extremism after Woolwich attack

June 3, 2013

There is only one view of the murder of Lee Rigby: horrific. But there are two views of its significance.

One is that it is the act of crazy people, motivated in this case by a perverted idea about Islam, but of no broader significance.

Crazy people do crazy things. So don’t overreact.

The other view is that this act was indeed horrible; and that the ideology which inspired it is profound and dangerous.

I am of this latter view.

So of course we shouldn’t overreact. We didn’t after July 7, 2005. But we did act. And we were right to. The actions by our security services will undoubtedly have prevented other serious attacks.

The ‘Prevent’ programme in local communities was sensible. The new measures of the Government seem reasonable and proportionate.

However, we are deluding ourselves if we believe that we can protect this country simply by what we do here. The ideology is out there. It isn’t diminishing.

Consider the Middle East. As of now, Syria is in a state of accelerating disintegration. President Assad is brutally pulverising communities hostile to his regime. At least 80,000 have died. The refugees now total more than one million. The internally displaced are more than four million.

Many in the region believe that the Assad intention is to ethnically cleanse the Sunni from the areas dominated by his regime and then form a separate state around Lebanon. There would then be a de facto Sunni state in the rest of Syria, cut off from the wealth of the country or the sea.

The Syrian opposition is made up of many groups. The fighters are increasingly the Al Qaeda- affiliated group Jabhat al-Nusra. They are winning support, and arms and money from outside the country.

So I understand the desire to look at this world and explain it by reference to local grievances, economic alienation and of course ‘crazy people’. But are we really going to examine it and find no common thread, nothing that joins these dots, no sense of an ideology driving or at least exacerbating it all?

There is not a problem with Islam. For those of us who have studied it, there is no doubt about its true and peaceful nature. There is not a problem with Muslims in general. Most in Britain will be horrified at Lee Rigby’s murder.

But there is a problem within Islam – from the adherents of an ideology that is a strain within Islam. And we have to put it on the table and be honest about it.

Of course there are Christian extremists and Jewish, Buddhist and Hindu ones. But I am afraid this strain is not the province of a few extremists. It has at its heart a view about religion and about the interaction between religion and politics that is not compatible with pluralistic, liberal, open-minded societies.

At the extreme end of the spectrum are terrorists, but the world view goes deeper and wider than it is comfortable for us to admit. So by and large we don’t admit it. This has two effects. First, those with that view think we are weak and that gives them strength.

Second, those within Islam – and the good news is there are many – who actually know this problem exists and want to do something about it, lose heart. All over the Middle East and beyond there is a struggle being played out.

On the one side, there are Islamists who have this exclusivist and reactionary world view. They are a significant minority, loud and well organised. On the other are the modern-minded, those who hated the old oppression by corrupt dictators and who hate the new oppression by religious fanatics. They are potentially the majority, but unfortunately they are badly organised.

The seeds of future fanaticism and terror, possibly even major conflict, are being sown. We have to help sow seeds of reconciliation and peace. But clearing the ground for peace is not always peaceful.

The long and hard conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq have made us wary of any interventions abroad. But we should never forget why they were long and hard. We allowed failed states to come into being.

Saddam was responsible for two major wars, in which hundreds of thousands died, many by chemical weapons. He killed similar numbers of his own people.

The Taliban grew out of the Russian occupation of Afghanistan and made the country into a training ground for terror. Once these regimes were removed, both countries have struggled against the same forces promoting violence and terror in the name of religion everywhere.

Not every engagement need be military; or where military, involve troops. But disengaging from this struggle won’t bring us peace.

Neither will security alone. We resisted revolutionary communism by being resolute on security; but we defeated it by a better idea: Freedom. We can do the same with this.

The better idea is a modern view of religion and its place in society and politics. There has to be respect and equality between people of different faiths. Religion must have a voice in the political system but not govern it.

We have to start with how to educate children about faith, here and abroad. That is why I started a foundation whose specific purpose is to educate children of different faiths across the world to learn about each other and live with each other.

We are now in 20 countries and the programmes work. But it is a drop in the ocean compared with the flood of intolerance taught to so many. Now, more than ever, we have to be strong and we have to be strategic.

– Tony Blair

This self-justifying stomach churning garbage from war criminal Tony Blair was originally published in The Mail on Sunday. From the comments on-line, it was more than even Mail readers could stomach.

The Woolich killings can be see in two different lights. Either a senseless killing on the streets, no different apart from its brutality to other street killings, or an act of terrorism.

It was treated as the latter by David Cameron, which has the downside of elevating the killers to martyrs. Though if David Cameron had not reacted as he did, and it was the start of a wave of killings, he would have been rightly criticised.

How does a war criminal become a Middle East Envoy? One only has to look at Iraq today, to see the legacy of Tony Blair.

The Blair article is riddled with errors.

Do many in the Middle East believe the aim of Butcher Assad is to cleanse the region of Sunni Muslims? Yes, it has descended into sectarian violence, as has Iraq (the Blair legacy), but that is not how it started. It started with Assad gunning down peaceful protesters. Only later did the opponents of this repressive regime take up arms to defend themselves. And shame on Putin for supporting Assad.

Blair claims Assad has used chemical weapons. What is his evidence? The UN says there is suspicion, but have not been allowed in to collect evidence.

Blair claims he sees at first hand what is happening in the Middle East, and specifically Israeli occupied Palestine. He sees, does he, Israeli settlers destroying olive trees, of occupying land that is not theirs?

Blair claims the ‘Taliban grew out of the Russian occupation of Afghanistan and made the country into a training ground for terror’. This is to completely rewrite history. The Americans provoked the then USSR to invade Afghanistan to create their own Vietnam. It was the CIA and MI6 and Pakistani ISI, with the help of Saudi money that created the Mujahideen to fight the Soviets, that morphed into the Taliban. Bin-Laden was our creation. The extreme form of Islam in Afghanistan was exported from Saudi Arabia, but still we arm the Saudis.

Blair claims Afghanistan was a terrorist training ground. It was not, but it is now, as is Iraq and many other parts of the world. The Taliban were willing to hand over Bin Laden, were they given the evidence to justify doing so. Afghanistan is now a major poppy producer, bogged down in corruption, women have no rights.

Blair mentions Pakistan, but does not mention the drone strikes by the Americans, and now the British, and the impact that is having. He does not mention the rampant corruption and cronyism in Pakistan.

There is a problem with Muslim extremism, that is not rooted in the Koran, with ignorant preachers of hate who should be kicked out of the country.

Young men are being fed poison in the Mosques, but what is then ignored by both the media and the mainstream political class, not just Blair, is self-brainwashing. Young men are fed poison in the Mosques, but they do not then have to watch videos on the net (though there are many to watch), they simply watch the mainstream news. They see the drone strikes in Pakistan, they see the ethnic cleansing and genocide committed by Israel against Palestinians, a few like the Glasgow car bombing, the 7/7 London Bombings, the brutal killing on the streets of Woolwich, are spurred to act, to attack what they see as the enemy slaughtering fellow innocent Muslims.

For nearly a decade, the British security services have been warning governments about the growth of terrorism as a result of disaffection in relation to the Afghan and Iraq wars. Former head of MI5 Dame Eliza Manningham Buller told the Chilcot inquiry that she had given such a warning to Tony Blair’s government over Iraq. We have evidence from these latest attackers and from those previously charged with terrorist offences that the wars are one of their major grievances.

Our wars, have destabilised large parts of the world, turning them into terrorist training grounds, into which head brainwashed angry young men, who came back primed and loaded as killing machines.

Nobel Peace Prize has become a farce

October 12, 2012

It was bad enough when Obama was granted the Peace Prize, but to hand it to the European Union, an undemocratic body that is rotten and corrupt to the core has to be seen as a sick joke.

The EU has done more to sow dissent and disharmony and hatred of foreigners in member states that anything up to outright invasion and occupation of a country.

Greece is suffering thanks to EU (in reality German) imposed austerity measures that are crippling the Greek economy and putting people out of work. Money flows into Greece, and back out to German banks (with no benefit to the Greek people).

When euro finance ministers meet, they spend their time discussing how to prop up the euro, not how can we help revive the economies of member their states.

It is not as though there are not worthy recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Canon Andrew White has worked tirelessly in Iraq to bring various warring factions together, to get them to talk to each other.

The Nobel Peace Prize is losing all legitimacy when it awards what was once a prestigious prize to the EU,and has reduced the awarding committee to a laughing stock.

Not a good idea to mess with the RAF …

June 5, 2012
Tornado

Tornado

Conversation overheard on the VHF Guard (emergency) frequency 121.5 MHz while flying from Europe to Dubai ..

Iranian Air Defence Site: ‘Unknown aircraft you are in Iranian airspace. Identify yourself.’

Aircraft: ‘This is a British aircraft. I am in Iraqi airspace.’

Air Defence Site: ‘You are in Iranian airspace. If you do not depart our airspace we will launch interceptor aircraft!’

Aircraft: ‘This is a Royal Air Force GR4 Tornado fighter. Send ‘em up, I’ll wait!’

Air Defence Site: ( …. total silence)

Under siege but vicar of Baghdad is still spreading the word

April 7, 2012
Canon Andrew White

Canon Andrew White

Andrew White got his blue Iraqi badge on Wednesday – the pass that allows him to move around Baghdad. The Anglican Chaplain to Iraq supported the US invasion – he still thinks Saddam shipped his weapons of mass destruction off to Syria before the Anglo-American armies arrived – and as someone who used an American pass to get about, the end of the occupation must have contained a special irony. “From the day the Americans left, their passes didn’t work any more. I couldn’t do anything. But now I’ve got the new Iraqi badge. It’s fine.”

White says he has even asked for Iraqi nationality. “They won’t let me. Iraqis come to London and five years later they’re British. I’ve been here for 14 years. Why can’t I be Iraqi?” I ponder this one. He’s of Anglo-Indian stock and looks a lot more Iraqi than many Iraqis. But I doubt if his citizenship – his wife’s great-great grandfather was foreign secretary Joseph Chamberlain – is exactly at the top of the al-Maliki agenda in Baghdad.

I like Andrew White. He’s larger than life, brave, a combination of a quote-a-day preacher, Martin Luther, Terry Waite and a Vicar for All Seasons. I find myself gasping at his mixture of frankness and wire-tripping, criticising the Iraqi Christian clergy as well as Muslim prelates – “That’s the problem with this place, everyone thinks they’re in charge” (that was his Maundy Thursday sermon) – and I suspect he might be more popular with his friends in Islam than his brothers in Christianity.

His work for Muslim-Christian reconciliation (in Baghdad, Alexandria, Copenhagen, Coventry, you name it) while ministering to a flock in Baghdad he simply can’t protect is somewhat close to that old cliché: awesome. He’s lost members of his church council to kidnappers (11 in one day in 2005, between Fallujah and Ramadi, and never seen again), seen his flock murdered in the streets, even his own security guards killed, 270 of his congregation murdered in five years; for months, he lived in the notorious Green Zone, freighted by armoured cars and armoured men to and from St George’s Church in Haifa Street.

St George’s is Andrew White’s cathedral, his parish, his “heaven” – his word, and I’ll keep it that way – and was built to commemorate the British and Commonwealth dead of the 1914-18 war. Its fine stained-glass regimental windows were long ago shattered by bombs, and even the remaining plaque to “one million dead who fell in the Great War” has been gashed by shrapnel.

In 2009, a bomb in Haifa Street that killed 164 Iraqis sent arms and legs sailing through the empty windows of St George’s. Now its garden boasts a small pyramid to commemorate eight Danish soldiers killed in Iraq between 2005 and 2008, a tiny reminder of the cost in Western blood of the Bush-and-Blair arrogance of power. A Christian population of one and a half million has been reduced to 200,000, courtesy of a born-again Christian from Texas.

But then up pops the ornery side of Andrew White. He patiently explains that his church received financial help from the Americans under Bush. “That all stopped when Obama took over.” The collapse of the Christian minority is a tragedy which the West has still not faced. It is now scattered across Sweden, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, America … Andrew White now runs a reconciliation council which includes Yazidis, Turkmen, Mandiens (followers of John the Baptist), Messihis, Faili (Shia) Kurds, you name it. He regards senior members of the Sunni and Shia clergy as his friends. The fatwa against all sectarian killings was partly his work.

But then suddenly, White becomes the country parson, tut-tutting at our lack of faith. General Angus Maude (“liberator” of Great War Baghdad) and Gertrude Bell, one of the inventors of Churchill’s Iraq, are both interred in the British cemetery. “Maude only came to our church once and then he died of cholera (he didn’t boil his milk) and he is buried in our cemetery. Gertrude Bell is buried in our cemetery – but never came to our church!” Suddenly, White’s the imaginary Vicar of Aynsford (where he was born), questioning our need for Christian burial if we lack Christian faith. I smile weakly. White also cares for Iraq’s seven remaining Jews, angrily telling me that a US cable released by WikiLeaks identified all by name, complete with their home addresses. “They are quite frightened,” he says. As the French say: J’imagine.

It’s impossible not to admire White. He’s a media man to his bones, of course, but he’s also a scholar, a former medical doctor who studied Hebrew at Cambridge, Rabbinics at Mea Sharim, speaks Hebrew and used to speak Yiddish. In Iraq, most Christians speak Aramaic. White points out that there is a Jewish shrine for Ezekial (Dhu Alkafel for Muslims) between Babylon and Najaf, now a Shia shrine. “The imam from there comes to this room and chats to me.”

At 47, White suffers from multiple sclerosis and has endured years of pain, a courage that must impress the Muslim and Christian members of his High Council of Religious Leaders in Iraq. But there’s always something in the wings when you talk to Andrew White. He signs his book, The Vicar of Baghdad, for me and casually remarks that the then Iraqi prime minister used this very pen to sign Saddam Hussein’s death warrant. “Of course, I didn’t know he was going to use it for that!” Andrew White says. He hands me the pen. For historians, it is an expensive black Pelikan. I leave through his Iraqi security checkpoints, one after another. He lives in a prison within a prison within a prison within a prison. His words, not mine.

– Robert Fisk

Published in The Independent.

Robert Fisk is a rare example of a British journalist of integrity. He tells the truth about the Middle East.

Canon Andrew White is author of Faith Under Fire, President of FRRME, the Anglican priest of St George’s in Baghdad and a Middle East Peacemaker.

He has recently been awarded the highly prestigious First Freedom Award.

Faith Under Fire has been shortlisted as the Christian Book of 2012. It is open to vote on-line for your favourite book, but somewhat dumb you have to vote for a childrens book too even though you may have no views. Also badly designed website, link does not go direct to voting form.

It had been hoped to hold a three-day International Peace Conference on Iraq, Light in Darkness, in Brighton, bringing young people from Iraq but this has collapsed due to lack of funding.

We Have Been Left and We Have Nothing

February 19, 2012

The exclamations of the Christians here in Iraq. None of us thought there would be any change here after the US troops left. They had not been seen on the streets for two years. We were totally wrong from the day that the US military left we were in total and disarray. Violence increased, religious sectarian increased again in force. We could not even enter the Green Zone, as any badges issued by the US were no longer valid, the new badges were simply not being issued. Total mayhem politically began with the prime minister issuing a warrant for the arrest of the Vice President Tariq Al Hashami. He was accused of terrorism and sadly there was a lot of evidence to suggest this was true.

With this action great significance was placed on the fact that the Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki was Shia and the Vice President was the most senior Sunni political figure in the country. Terrible sectarian violence targeting the Shia begun.

There were also coordinated attacks on the institutions of the state, including on the Foreign Ministry, which is very close to St George’s church. With the arrest warrant for the Sunni Vice President issued by the Shia Prime Minister, the fragile coalition government is fracturing down sectarian lines and turning violently on itself.

What I most feared would happen is happening. I said all along that it wouldn’t make any difference to us if the Americans leave. I was really wrong.

It is becoming really difficult in Iraq right now. Before, we knew that the US were just around the corner so we could get them if we needed them, but now they are not there. But we won’t give up, we won’t stop our work and by God’s grace we will keep going.

Events in Iraq have escalated in recent days, as the departure of the US troops appears to have sparked a series of attacks and disputes within the divided country. Just one week ago, Barack Obama declared; “We are leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government elected by its people” . The reality is swiftly proving to contradict the President’s words.

There have been attempts to ransack both al Hashami’s office and that of al Maliki in recent days. There has even been a car bomb in the supposedly secure Green Zone. The attacks form part of wider and increasing sectarian violence in Iraqi society.

Even as the US troops left Iraq the fear of the Christians and other minorities has increased. They say, ”at least before under the old regime at we were protected now we have nothing. Those who have set us free from an evil dictator have now left us and we have nothing”

What is this “nothing”? It is no security before the Christians as minorities were protected. The evil regime of Saddam was led by man who was not the Shia majority but a Sunni from the second group not the first. When the foreign troops were here even though we often did not see them they were not far away and if and when we needed them they were there. There are times when we ourselves face great danger. Our people have been slaughtered, massacred and murdered but now we have nobody to turn to. There has been much talk about the security needs of our people. The Iraqi Government has tried to do what it can but we do not live in a ghetto. The Christians are based all over Iraq but especially in Baghdad and Nineveh/Mosul. 2700 years after Jonah, Nineveh is still the place where all Christians come from. So the Christians and all minorities are less safe than they have ever been.

Nothing is far more than security though. Employment is far more limited not least for women. The main industry is now security and for the Christians educated women things are more difficult than ever in an Increasingly orthodox Islamic state. A state where the rights of women have sadly diminished.

No employment means no money and that means no ability to buy food. Pay rent for housing or even posses proper health care. The health care system here in Iraq has seriously collapsed. The hospitals are falling to pieces and many of its leading doctors have been killed, kidnapped or have fled from Iraq.

I may be the leader of a church but after services each week I also have to give all my 4000 plus people food for the week. We have had to establish a large clinic with doctors, dentists, laboratory, and specialist units and also a pharmacy. All treatment is totally free and it is not just restricted to Christians either but is totally open to all and is totally free of charge. In addition to these services we also have also built a school to provide excellent education to our many children. It is fortunate that we can provide this service for our people but we did not envisage that this long after 2003 we would still have to but we do. Iraq today is still an insecure place where most of the people have nothing.

Things are difficult for all Iraqis but for us as minorities it is particularly so. The violence here is known about and is terrible and much of it has come from outside but now we have another huge problem. It is such a big issue the three years ago we became the top nation in the world in this crime it is nothing less than corruption. Corruption that is so great that we no longer know whom we can even trust.

When the Coalition Provisional Authority took control of the nation in 2003 I remember telling one of the diplomatic leaders that we needed to deal with the issue of religion in order to prevent religious sectarian violence. I was told that this was not really an issue in Iraq. First I was told that Water and electricity needed to be dealt with. It was only a few weeks later that this diplomat came to me and said that he could not even deal with water and electricity because religion kept getting in the way.

It was the Archbishop of Canterbury in the last world war William Temple who said, “When religion goes wrong it goes very wrong”. Sadly that is what has happened here. Religion here now is not seen as a tranquil means of relating to the Almighty but a means of fighting for the rights of their own. A fight that sadly often involves violence. The fight that recently arose from Sunni to Shia was just a further symptom of this sectarian violence. If religion is the cause of the violence it must also be the cure. That is the work of the High Council of Religious Leaders in Iraq that we established in 2004.

Many were killed and injured. We as religious begun an urgent process to try reduce the sectarian violence. We met in Najaf the holiest City in the world to the Shia. For the first time ever we took some of the Sunni religious leaders to Najaf we herd first hand from the Shia religious leaders of their immense fear of the renewed sectarian violence. A few days later we met with a large number of Sunni leaders in Baghdad. Together we produced an Islamic Fatwa (injunction) against the Sunni attacking and killing the Shia. Much of diplomatic world still fails to see that this problem or “Religion gone very Wrong” has to be dealt with by religion itself. That is why we are here and what we try and do.

Sadly this radical sectarianism is no longer just restricted to Iraq the so called Arab Spring has greatly increased this risk of this sectarianism in the whole of the region. Will there now be a lot more minorities in the region saying, “We have nothing”?

– Canon Andrew White

Canon Andrew White is author of Faith Under Fire, President of FRRME, the Anglican priest of St George’s in Baghdad and a Middle East Peacemaker.

He has recently been awarded the highly prestigious First Freedom Award.

A three-day International Peace Conference on Iraq, Light in Darkness, is to be held in Brighton, Thursday 6 September to Saturday 8 September at the City Coast Church. It is hoped to bring young people from Iraq but this will depend upon how generous are donors. Speaker will include Canon Andrew White. For more information and for donations, please contact FRRME.

Faith Under Fire has been shortlisted as the Christian Book of 2012. It is open to vote on-line for your favourite book, but somewhat dumb you have to vote for a childrens book too even though you may have no views. Also badly designed website, link does not go direct to voting form.

- God moves in mysterious ways
The Truth as Iraq descends into Hell
Sorry Sir my dear Jesus , we came to you with, black gown
House of Lords debates the plight of Christians in the Middle East
Senior Sunni Clerics issue fatwa against sectarian violence

Senior Sunni Clerics issue fatwa against sectarian violence

January 30, 2012

Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God. — Matthew 5:9

Today I met with some of the most senior clerics in Iraq under the auspices of the Society of Iraqi Islamic Scientists (the senior Sunni Clerics Society). Some of them also came to Najaf with us on Friday. The main issue on the agenda was finding ways to stop the sectarian violence against the Shia. They also delivered a Fatwa (Islamic) injunction against all sectarian violence and publicly declared that most sectarian violence was coming from the Sunni community. Tomorrow the Fatwa will be discussed with the Iraqi Vice President and the British Ambassador.

– Canon Andrew White

The Fatwa

THE IRAQI SOCIETY OF ISLAMIC SCIENTISTS FATWA

In the name of God the Merciful

Under the conditions experienced by Iraqis and many Middle Eastern people at the present time and in the light of the increase in the level of Iraqi sectarian violence and the volatile situation, we believe that the deteriorating political condition calls upon us as Sunni religious scholars to together as a group to issue a Fatwa.

We wish to declare the sanctity of all Iraqi blood wether Shia, Sunni or Christian. We call for a mechanism to educate the Iraqi Society in order to renounce all sectarian violence and instead create an environment of cooperation with civil society organizations and institutions of civil jurisdiction so not to allow our people in Iraq to divide into sectarian conflicts. We must work towards national unity amongst all Muslims (Sunni and Shia) and Christians; we all have the duty and right to live together in unity in our country Iraq.

Dr Sheikh Khaled Abdul-Wahab Mullah, Leader, Sunni Cleric Baghdad + Basrah
Shekh Saadi Mehdi Qutaiba Alindaoui Sunni Leader Al Anbar
Sheikh Maher Al Jubori Sunni Cleric Fullujah
Dr Sheikh Kubaisi Jalal Sunni Cleric Rammadi
Sheikh Marwan Al Araji Sunni Cleric Baghdad
Sheikh Hasham Al Dulami Sunni Cleric Fullujah

I was talking with my friend Margaret this evening who works in Triangle (Christian tea shop cum bookshop) and we both agreed that if anyone was going to have an impact on the sectarian violence in Iraq it was Canon Andrew White.

Over the last few days he has been talking to Sunni religious leaders, the outcome a fatwa against the sectarian violence.

Now we need a similar fatwa from the Shia clerics.

Canon Andrew White is author of Faith Under Fire, President of FRRME, the Anglican priest of St George’s in Baghdad and a Middle East Peacemaker.

He has recently been awarded the highly prestigious First Freedom Award.

A three-day International Peace Conference on Iraq, Light in Darkness, is to be held in Brighton, Thursday 6 September to Saturday 8 September at the City Coast Church. It is hoped to bring young people from Iraq but this will depend upon how generous are donors. Speaker will include Canon Andrew White. For more information and for donations, please contact FRRME.

Faith Under Fire has been shortlisted as the Christian Book of 2012. It is open to vote on-line for your favourite book, but somewhat dumb you have to vote for a childrens book too even though you may have no views. Also badly designed website, link does not go direct to voting form.

- God moves in mysterious ways
The Truth as Iraq descends into Hell
Sorry Sir my dear Jesus , we came to you with, black gown
House of Lords debates the plight of Christians in the Middle East


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 571 other followers