Canon Andrew White
In the face of significant threats to him personally and repeated bombings of the church, Canon White pastors one of the largest churches in Iraq, St George‘s Baghdad.
St George‘s Church ministers to over 550 indigenous Iraqi Christian families and it operates well outside the safety of the International Green Zone. Most of the congregation are women and children – widows and orphans – since most of the men have been killed in the decades of violence in Iraq.
Based in the church compound, the St George‘s Clinic employs medical staff from across the sectarian divides to work side by side to deliver humanitarian relief to their neighbours, regardless of patients‘ religious or ethnic background. They provide free medical and dental care to around 100 Iraqi patients every day, treating 2,000 people every month.
As if tending to such a church in such a place was not enough of a full–time job, Canon White also frequently exchanges his dog collar for a bowtie and engages in conflict mediation in the area. He has built up standing and reputation with the most senior religious leaders in Iraq. Through these relationships of trust and confidence, Canon 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.
These religious leaders have enormous influence in the region; influence that they can use for peaceful means or to incite sectarian violence. In meetings chaired by Canon White, they produced the first ever joint Sunni / Shia fatwa against violence in Iraq, which was read out in at least 80% of the mosques throughout Iraq, as well as on several popular satellite television channels.
In October 2010 Canon White was in New York, collecting the Train Foundation Civil Courage prize. This prize is awarded to individuals who have shown steadfast resistance to evil at great personal risk to themselves. Most previous recipients of that prize are now either dead or in prison.
White says: ―I have been detained at gun–point, been thrown into a room with people‘s chopped–off fingers and toes all over the floor, and have had my picture posted on walls around Baghdad with a notice saying, ‗Wanted, dead or alive.‘ Members of my church have been kidnapped or killed. I have lost many friends. It is very difficult.