Posts Tagged ‘Iraq’

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

God moves in mysterious ways

January 28, 2012
Lina, Andrew, vice president and daughter

Lina, Andrew, vice president and daughter

Synchronicity is the coming together of inner and outer events in a way that cannot be explained by cause and effect and that is meaningful to the observer. — Carl Jung

Anything that occurs once can never occur again. But, should it happen twice, it will surely happen a third time. — Paulo Coelho

Well today has been an incredible day spent in the Holy Shia Shrine of Najaf. We had with us the serious Sunni leaders as we attempted to deal with the present sectarian crisis. More on this later.

You will be aware of our present crisis with the need for green zone badges. We need to get into the Green Zone not least for the US Embassy services. Everything we have tried has failed. Yesterday we did a deal with an Ambassador’s Assistant to get us in and out tomorrow. It will take several hours of his time on his day off that will cost us but it is worth it.

Last night I had an email from somebody doing their PhD on Sunni/Shia Reconciliation in Iraq at University in Canada. She desperately wanted to see me as she had read my work and been told about me by her lecturers. I sent her my phone number and she called. She said that she and her father really wanted to see me tomorrow. She said she lived in the Green Zone. I asked her who her father was? It turns out it is the good vice president who has promised to get all our badges for us. What a strange way G-d answers prayer but He always does!!!!!!!!!!!!!

– Canon Andrew White

Since the Americans left leaving as claimed by Barack Obama Iraq as a stable country (must have been his idea of a sick joke), over 200 killed. Yesterday another suicide car bomb.

Passes to to the Green Zone, issued by the Americans, no matter how high the security clearance, became overnight worthless. Hence the problems experienced by Canon Andrew White and others moving freely to and from the Green Zone.

What Canon Andrew White has described is a lovely example of synchronicity!

A theme running throughout the work of Paulo Coelho, is that of coincidence, or what I would call synchronicity.

Omens are another theme, understanding how to understand and follow them, how to achieve your destiny.

Synchronicity is that of meaningful coincidences, coincidences that are so improbable that they cannot be explained by chance alone.

The concept of synchronicity was developed by Carl Jung. Deepak Chopra takes it a stage further and calls synchronicity communication across the transition zone (see How to Know God). In the language of Paulo Coelho, it would be communication with the Soul of the World. Canon Andrew White would see it as a sign from G-d!

I was introduced to Paulo Coelho due to a chance meeting with a lovely Lithuanian girl. We were both sitting outside a pub in Guildford, relaxing by the river. I asked her what she was reading. The Zahir she said, which she recommended I try. A couple of weeks later I was in Brighton. I had a similar conversation, only now the roles were reversed. History repeating itself, a sense of déja vu? [see Synchronicity and Paulo Coelho]

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.

The conference was due to be held in Bracknell end of July. It coincided with the London 2012 Olympics and extortionate hotel prices. At short notice it has had to be moved to Brighton in September. A much pleasanter place to be and early September is a good time to be in Brighton.

God moves in mysterious ways!

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.

- Interview with Canon Andrew White in Canada
- 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

Interview with Canon Andrew White in Canada

January 17, 2012

Excellent interview with Canon Andrew White on 100huntley.com talking about Biblical references to Iraq (there are lots) and the current situation in Iraq both from a political and religious viewpoint.

How many people were able to count Yasser Arafat as a close personal friend, someone who got an invite to a five-year-old’s birthday party? How many churches have angels and the wheels within wheels as described by Ezekiel present?

Canon Andrew White is the Anglican priest of St George’s in Baghdad and a Middle East Peacemaker.

Last week he was awarded the highly prestigious First Freedom Award.

Books mentioned:

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.

Canon Andrew White awarded First Freedom Award

January 14, 2012
Canon Andrew White and Fulla Elia at First Freedom Award ceremony

Canon Andrew White and Fulla Elia at First Freedom Award ceremony

Fulla, Andrew and Julie Futch

Fulla, Andrew and Julie Futch

Andrew, Fulla and others

Andrew, Fulla and others

Andrew group photo

Andrew group photo

First Freedom Award - Andrew White 2012

First Freedom Award - Andrew White 2012

First Freedom Award reverse

First Freedom Award reverse

The prize giving event yesterday was a wonderful event. Hundreds of people at the prize giving dinner and even lots of friends I did not even know were coming. Amb. Bell the foundation president told me that it by far the best prize giving event in his memory. It was such an honour and some of the pictures are below. — Canon Andrew White

Canon Andrew White, aka Vicar of Baghdad, has been awarded the First Freedom Prize for his outstanding work on Middle East peace initiatives and extremely rare to be awarded to a non-Head of State.

The citation reads:

2012 INTERNATIONAL RECIPIENT
Canon Andrew White

Dubbed the “Vicar of Baghdad,” The Reverend Canon Andrew White is Vicar of St. George’s Church, the only Anglican Church in Iraq. White is also President of the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East.

Canon Andrew White has built an extraordinary ministry of reconciliation and conflict mediation in the Middle East. In 1998, he was installed as the Director of International Ministry for the Diocese and Cathedral of Coventry. Soon after, White became the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Special Envoy to the Middle East, a very dangerous position in which White’s predecessor, Terry Waite, was kidnapped by Hizbullah and held hostage for over four years.

White was actively involved in the Middle East helping to lead the negotiations during the Siege of the Church of the Nativity in 2002 and helping draft the First Alexandria Declaration of the Religious Leaders of the Holy Land, and the Baghdad Religious Accord, both of which were instrumental in bringing together key religious leaders of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faiths. Since 2005, White has worked almost exclusively as the pastor of St. George’s Church in Iraq, and continues his pioneering reconciliation efforts through The Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East.

In Iraq, Canon White joins his responsibilities of pastoral care with an aggressive interfaith mission to reduce conflict in an insecure environment. The clinic that White’s church sponsors has medical staff from all sects in Iraq and delivers humanitarian relief without regard for the religious or ethnic backgrounds of patients.

White’s standing and reputation with the most senior religious leaders in Iraq has helped him reduce not only violence against Iraq’s increasingly small Christian community, but reduce violence against all Iraqis as well. White uses interfaith dialogue as part of a conflict arbitration strategy in Iraq, trying to gain the trust of key Sunni and Shi’ite Muslim religious leaders as grounds for mediating and re-establishing political dialogue. Through creating relationships of trust and confidence, White has brought together the leaders of the opposing sectarian factions, and his foundation has sponsored a number of high-level peace talks between them. Meetings chaired by White produced the first ever joint Sunni and Shi’ite religious opinion against violence in Iraq, which was read out in at least 80% of the mosques in Iraq.

Too often International Awards and Honours go to unworthy recipients. The Nobel Peace Prize to Obama was a sick joke.

The First Freedom Award to Canon Andrew White was a just recognition of his work in the Middle East!

Andrew White was accompanied to the Award Ceremony by the lovely Fulla Elia who was looking absolutely stunning!

Previous recipients of this prestigious award include former Czech President Václav Havel for his role in Charter 77 and the Velvet Revolution; as well as three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee Father Elias Chacour, founder of Israel’s Mar Elias Educational Institutions.

First Freedom Center is an American institute that seeks to advance the fundamental human rights of freedom of religion and freedom of conscience.

Photos courtesy of Fulla Elia.

Faith Under Fire by Andrew White 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.

- Canon Andrew White awarded International First Freedom Award
- Andrew White wins International First Freedom Award
- Anglican Priest Given Prestigious Religious Freedom Award


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