Posts Tagged ‘Faith Under Fire’

Faith Under Fire

January 7, 2012
Faith Under Fire

Faith Under Fire

Don’t take care, take risks. — Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Donald Coggan

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. — Romans 8:28

There cannot be any such word as ‘can’t’ here in Iraq. We have to persevere, and we do. And in everything we see the glory of God. — Canon Andrew White

When religion goes wrong, it goes very wrong. — Archbishop William Temple

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. — 1 John 4:18

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. — 2 Timothy 1:17

Anaesthetist, curate, parish priest, head of peace and reconciliation unit at Coventry Cathedral, Middle East peace negotiator, Vicar of Baghdad, not bad for a CV.

Some people are lucky, or so those who consider themselves unlucky bemoan, but it is not that, it is taking risks, drawing upon what life gives us.

If we look at the Life of Charles Darwin, Origin of Species did not just happen, nor was it because he happened to be at the right place at the right time (though that helped). It was because he took what life offered, he drew upon the experience gained in his earlier life.

The same is true of Canon Andrew White, he takes risks where others would hesitate, he draws upon the experience life has given him, all done with a love of God and love for those who he serves, underwritten in the faith in the One God, or G-d as he would write.

Much of my work in religious sectarianism is simply about showing love to the unlovely.

Those who commit the worst atrocities are usually those with nothing to lose.

It is easy to talk to the good guys, not so easy the bad guys, those whose hands drip with the blood of the innocents. But to make progress we have to talk to everyone.

The founder and leader of Hamas was beyond the pale. He changed from a man of violence to an advocate of peace. When he died, even Members of the Knesset attended his funeral.

At the age of ten Andrew White knew what he wanted, knew where he was heading. He wanted to be both an anaesthetist and a priest.

You cannot be both, he was told, and in any case, with your background, Pentecostal and Baptist, you cannot be a priest as they do not have them.

Needs will or looked at another way, God provides. He became both, first an anaesthetist, then an Anglican priest. Part of his theological studies were spent in Jerusalem studying Judaism. All of which has prepared him well for the work in the Middle East.

The world I occupied then is vastly different to the one I occupy now, but nevertheless I learnt some important lessons – not least the ability to react quickly in situations. When a patient goes into cardiac arrest you have to react immediately. When someone points a gun at you, you must also react immediately. If you have to think about dodging a bullet, it has already hit you. On the streets of Baghdad, my medical training has probably been of more use to me than my theological training at Cambridge.

Christianity in Iraq has a long and proud history. It is not an alien religion brought in or imposed by the West. Christian Fundamentalists who rode in on the coattails of the Americans like modern day carpet baggers did a huge amount of damage. It made Christians seem tools of the West. The Crusades are still in common memory. Conversely Iraqis were surprised to find American soldiers were Christians with crosses around their necks as they thought Christianity a Middle Eastern if not Iraqi religion.

House of Lords debates the plight of Christians in the Middle East
Crass stupidity by Christian fundamentalists leads to persecution and massacre of Christians in the Middle East
Christianity A History: The Crusades

St George’s in Baghdad was built by and for the Brits. It now serves Iraqis, all are welcome.

Those who can, have long fled Iraq. Those left are the poor and dispossessed. When all is lost, faith is all that is left.

Lord Hylton on a visit to Baghdad described St George’s as a church of the future. A church that welcomes everyone and everyone is made welcome, be they Catholic, Protestant or Orthodox, be they Christian or Muslim, where everyone is loved and shares their love. A place where angels appear. A place of peace and tranquillity in a war-torn country.

Angels? The angels first appeared in 2007, and have remained since.

Another of our ‘gains’ has been the visible presence of angels. I had read of angels in the Bible, of course, and I, and others, had regularly prayed for their protection in Iraq. But until three years ago I had never actually seen one. Towards the end of 2007, quite suddenly, we started to see angelic forms. They look very much like we’d expect angels to look – like males with wings – but they are strange figures, large and translucent. We take them very seriously.

Occasionally strange objects like wheels within wheels are seen. They only appear within St George’s, at some other churches in Iraq and at Ezekiel Tomb.

Wheels within wheels

It is not known what they are, they are very prolific. In photos they appear as blobs.

Ezekiel saw something similar (Ezekiel 1:15-21):

As I looked at the living creatures, I saw a wheel on the ground beside each creature with its four faces. This was the appearance and structure of the wheels: They sparkled like chrysolite, and all four looked alike. Each appeared to be made like a wheel intersecting a wheel. As they moved, they would go in any one of the four directions the creatures faced; the wheels did not turn about as the creatures went. Their rims were high and awesome, and all four rims were full of eyes all around.

When the living creatures moved, the wheels beside them moved; and when the living creatures rose from the ground, the wheels also rose.

Wherever the spirit would go, they would go, and the wheels would rise along with them, because the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels.

When the creatures moved, they also moved; when the creatures stood still, they also stood still; and when the creatures rose from the ground, the wheels rose along with them, because the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels.

St George’s used to cost $600 a year to run, it now costs $175,000 a month to run. It is not only the running cost of the church, there is an associated clinic, education, food and welfare. All of which has to be raised through fund raising and donations.

Why do people suffer, why is Iraq descending into Hell, why is Canon Andrew White afflicted with multiple sclerosis?

Sorry Sir my dear Jesus , we came to you with, black gown
The Truth as Iraq descends into Hell

God moves in mysterious ways.

I am aware that God trains and prepares us through all of life’s experiences. Sometimes He sees fit to impose on us things we do not see as ‘the best’ for our lives, but He sees the greater purpose and allows such things as so that we will do what He wants us to do oe go where He wants us to go.

It is often those who face the greatest adversity who share the greatest love. Canon Andrew White in Iraq is a good example of this.

St Paul pleaded with God to remove the thorn from his side, God responded (1 Corinthians 12:19):

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

God speaks in quiet whispers, we have to listen with care.

I often recommend to people three books, well I actually recommend far more than three books, but these three books are special because they compliment and support each other – Love Wins, The Shack, Aleph – to which I now add a fourth, Faith Under Fire, as what we read in the first three and at times seems mystical, not real, far-fetched, is an everyday occurrence in Iraq.

Aleph is a strange mystical book, it cannot be for real, we think, and yet Canon Andrew White recounts far stranger mystical happenings.

Love Wins tells of the love God has for each and everyone one of us. Canon Andrew White tells of the love in Baghdad.

In The Shack we see the mystery of the Holy Spirit, forgiveness. We see this happening in Iraq.

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 is the vicar of St Geoge’s Church in Baghdad and President of FRRME.

The Vicar of Baghdad
Suffer the Children

Canon Andrew White at the Boiler Room

December 4, 2011
anointing with oil

anointing with oil

books by Andrew White

books by Andrew White

Happy Second Advent, my friends. Love and peace — Rudolf Schenker

Suffer the children to come unto me. — Jesus

We are not the person other people wish we were. We are who we decide to be. — Paulo Coelho

Thou shalt not be a victim. Thou shalt not be a perpetrator. Above all, thou shalt not be a bystander. — Holocaust Museum

A house has been blown up said Andrew somewhat nonchalantly after checking his phone as though commenting on the weather. Not quite an everyday conversation, but then I was not sat next to an everyday person, I was sat with Canon Andrew White aka the Vicar of Baghdad who as well as checking his phone was doodling with the children on the table cloth.

We were both at the Boiler Room in Guildford, not to be confused with the Boiler Room in Guildford. We were at a rather drab function room well passed its sell-by date at the Stoke Pub where Andrew was about to give an eagerly anticipated talk.

In the Middle East it is very tribal, it is too in the West, it is just that we do not notice.

A little girl Amy, Canon Andrew White had worked with both her grandfathers, as a medic and as a cleric.

We are at the Second Sunday of Advent. It involves a little more than getting the chocolate out of the Advent Calender, it is not preparation for Christmas, but rather to mark the return of Jesus, the Second Coming.

Isaiah chapter 40, prepare for the Second Coming, a message repeated in Mark.

On this day we also remember the birth of John the Baptist.

No matter how bad a situation there is always hope.

In Iraq today, houses blown up, shops blown up, not that we would know if we relied on the news (though try Al Jazeera which has far better news reporting).

Iraq: Muslim mob shouting “Allahu akbar” attacks, ransacks, burns Christian-owned shops and hotels
Christians Attacked in Iraq by Kurdish Extremists
Kurdish leader: Clerics ‘instigated … acts of sabotage,’ wounding 25

Iraq is an amazing place, the setting for many Biblical stories.

The Garden of Eden was in Iraq, between the Euphrates and the Tigris. Abraham was born in Iraq. Job came from Iraq and his tomb or shrine can be found in Iraq.

We know Job was in Iraq, because although it is not explicitly recorded that he was in Iraq, it is recorded that he was killed by the Chaldeans or Mandeans and they were only in Iraq.

Mandeans are followers of John the Baptist. They hold their services in water, they even get married in water.

The Second Exile (the First Exile was to Egypt) was to Babylon.

According to the children in Iraq, Jesus was also in Iraq, he was the fourth person who was seen in the flames.

If you want something, pray!

An Ayatollah sought from Canon Andrew White some meat, when told he had no meat, he said pray.

Please God, send me some meat. Amen.

Next morning at a breakfast, a burly American asked, Father, do you want some meat? How much? Over 100 tons of meat!

Think BIG!

In 2003, St George’s in Baghdad re-opened. Until then, its congregation was a few pigeons. The first service was for military and diplomats. Soon it became too dangerous. Then the Iraqis started to come. First Sunday 100, next week 200, then 300, then 400, then a thousand, then two thousand, then three thousand, then four thousand.

When many of the congregation were killed or fled, it was thought there would be less mouths to feed, but not so, the Christians were replaced by 500 Muslim women. For them it was the same God, the God of Abraham.

Many, many people have been killed, kidnapped, tortured.

The entire church leadership were kidnapped one night and killed.

Last October, when Canon Andrew White was in Guildford to give a talk, he heard the tragic news that 58 people had been massacred in a neighbouring Catholic Church including the priest. It was a period when many Christians were killed, their homes and businesses destroyed.

Dinner with Canon Andrew White

St George’s is no longer a church, more a city. It has an associated clinic which is better than you would find in England. It provides a school, welfare, food. After Sunday service, everyone is given a bag of groceries to take home.

The Curate at the church is the first ever Iraqi Anglican!

24-7 Prayer is run from the church.

Angels appear, or what are believed to be angels. Even when asked to go away, even if only for a few minutes in order that photos can be taken they stay and appear as blobs in photos. An example can be found in Faith Under Fire.

In Iraq, you cannot just walk down the street, knock a few doors and ask would you like to come to church this Sunday? Too dangerous.

But there is no need. They turn up anyway.

Muslims are made very welcome in the church.

In the Middle East you show respect by inviting to dinner and having plenty of food on display to eat.

Special place for children, of which there are several hundred, 21 of who form a special inner circle.

Several of these children are in the book Suffer the Children telling their stories.

One of these girls now works as Andrew’s PA.

Occasionally a few of the children are brought to England.

One of Andrew’s sons said he wished to go to Iraq. Why? He wished to update his facebook profile and wanted a picture with big guns.

His request was acceded to. He spent most of his time with the soldiers who guard Canon Andrew White. One day when asked where he had been when he vanished for three hours, he had apparently been with the soldiers learning how to strip and reassemble an AK-47!

Isaiah spoke of a chosen people: Egypt, Iraq (Assyria) and Israel.

There is a t-shirt in Iraq: Don’t worry it can only get worse

Another t-shirt shows a smiley face with a bullet hole in the head and blood dripping down the face with the slogan: Have a nice day some place else

Canon Andrew White had with him two very special objects: a little bottle of anointing oil and a very old Bible. Both had belonged to Smith Wigglesworth, who his grandfather had worked for as an assistant.

The oil was used to anoint everyone present. One person invited forward, hand held out, who then anointed those at their table.

After talking Canon Andrew White led a singing session, then chatted with the children and signed books.

I picked up three more signed copies of Faith Under Fire.

I came bearing gifts.

I gave a copy of a talk Andrew had given a few weeks earlier in Guildford.

Canon Andrew White at Guildford Baptist Church

To Andrew too a copy of the talk within a Christmas card plus to take back to Baghdad: Aleph, The Alchemist and The Valkyries, all by Paulo Coelho. As the people there cannot read English, I will see what I can do to arrange for copies in Arabic.

Smith Wigglesworth (1859-1947), was a leading light in the Pentecostal Church. He was known as the Apostle of Faith, moved in mighty signs and wonders and it was even claimed raised people from the dead!

Smith Wiggleworth Prophecy for Britain Coming to Pass!

Guildford Boiler Room is a Christian community that meets at Stoke Pub in Guildford.

Creative Arts @ Costa evening Tuesday 6 December 2011 at Costa, Swan Lane, Guildford.

An African Christmas The Occam Singers evening Saturday 10 December 2011 at St Nicoals Church (bottom of High Street over the bridge), Guildford.

Guildford Boiler Room Carol Service evening Sunday 11 December 2011 at Stoke Pub, Guildford.

Keystone Spirit evening Tuesday 13 December 2011 at Keystone Pub (behind St Nicolas Church), Guildford.

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