Six weeks after being assigned as the priest to Coventry Cathedral in the West Midlands of England, 33 year-old Andrew White began experiencing balance and eye sight problems. He was hospitalized, and on the same day that his second child was born, Fr. White received the news that he had multiple sclerosis. So, he did what any human being would do---head for war- torn Iraq to serve as a pastor, a peace-maker, and a leader of inter-religious dialogue.
In the eighteen years since, he’s earned the title, “Vicar of Baghdad.” Fr. White has been involved in everything from mediating the release of Muslim and Christian hostages to facilitating communication between Shia and Sunni leaders, to founding The Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East (FRRME).
FRRME provides medical care and emergency supplies to persecuted peoples in Northern Iraq and Jordan, including Christian and Yazidi refugees. White’s organization works with the United Nations and other churches to ensure the food and medicine actually gets to those who are most vulnerable.
Because the Jordanian government does not allow refugees to work, FRRME is also providing shelter for 500 Iraqi families in Marka (a suburb of Amman), and education for 175 children.
Fr. White’s peacemaking efforts also include The Jerusalem International School for Reconciliation (JISR), a summer school program that teaches Israeli and Palestinian youths about new methods of reconciliation.
Along the way, White and his wife have also adopted five Iraqi children.
But like any true ministry, he has suffered. White’s life has been threatened numerous times, and he has endured hijackings, a kidnapping, torture, and he’s had to travel with bodyguards for years. In 2014 the Archbishop of Canterbury ordered White to leave Baghdad, due to increased security risks. Yet he remains near, in Jordan.
Fr. White has been recognized by several international groups for his reconciliation work, including the ICCJ Prize for Intellectual Contribution to Jewish-Christian Relations, the International Sternberg Prize, the Tanenbaum Peace Prize, the William Wilberforce Award, and the Anne Frank Award (presented by the Dutch government).
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.”
Andrew White is a hero you should know. And I’m Dr. Ross Porter.