The Rev. Canon Andrew White, affectionately known as “The Vicar of Baghdad,” visited All Saints Dallas on September 20 to share about his work of relief and reconciliation among the persecuted Christians in Iraq.
The chaplain of St. George’s Church in the heart of Baghdad, the UK native is also the president of the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East (FRAME), which exists to support his charitable efforts. He travels widely speaking and raising money to provide food, education and other types of aid for those in need.
An eclectic crowd of two hundred, most from the community who had heard about the event through social media, waited in anticipation to hear from Canon Andrew. Through speech slightly slurred from a longtime battle with Multiple Sclerosis, he spoke for 45 minutes, followed by a brief Q&A with the Rev. Canon David Roseberry of Christ Church Plano in Plano, Texas. After questions from the audience and a time of prayer, the audience had an opportunity to purchase Canon Andrew’s books and meet him personally.
In his talk, Canon Andrew described how St. George’s is the last church functioning in Baghdad and, despite the atrocities ISIS is committing against Christians, continues giving aid to the poor and needy in the name of Christ. He has seen God meeting the needs of Iraqi Christians in unique and spectacular ways, and they continue to sing joyfully and unite with one another regardless of denomination.
Canon Andrew also cited his total reliance on God’s Spirit for guidance in his dangerous environment. He told the story of a church service when he felt God telling him, “That man needs to go.” He asked a group of men to escort the man out, and they discovered he had a bomb strapped to his chest and was planning to blow up the church.
Though he has seen many of his parishioners killed for their faith, Canon Andrew does not believe in responding with violence. He says, “We do not want to die, but we cannot make our churches fortresses.”
He also spoke highly of his many Muslim friends in Iraq, saying he regrets that a small, violent sect like ISIS has painted Muslims with a broad brush. The majority of Iraqi Muslims feel the Christians’ plight and want them to be free to practice their beliefs.
For the Rev. Gavin Pate, a parishioner at All Saints Dallas who attended the event, the highlight was meeting Sarah, one of Canon Andrew’s two assistants with FRAME.
“She is a Muslim but her approach to Christ sounded like it was progressing past Islamic understandings,” Gavin says. “She had seen the plight of these Christians and how they are persevering and trying to do the right thing. At the end, we prayed for her as an assembled group.”
Gavin says all attendees listened with rapt attention, seeming to feel the gravity that this man would come all the way to Texas to speak to them.
“I saw a lot of enthusiasm and compassion that night,” he says. “Canon Andrew increased awareness of what is happening to our brothers and sisters in Iraq, and it matters. We care, and we’re more aware and more knowledgeable than when we started.”