TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) – Today the congregation of Life Center Church in Terre Haute played host to a unique guest.
Canon Andrew White spoke about his life as a peace negotiator, and pastor of one of the largest Christian churches in Iraq, St. George’s in Baghdad.
Many years ago he was living in England, practicing medicine, when he says God presented him with a different plan.
Now Cannon White is most commonly known as the “Vicar of Baghdad”.
“I really felt, that I needed to see if there was anything I could do to bring reconciliation with Iraq,” he says.
It would prove to be a daunting task.
For the past 15 years he’s been the pastor of St. George’s in Baghdad.
The church ministers to over 550 local Iraqi Christian families and operates outside the international green zone.
He has lost over 1,000 members of his congregation to deadly violence.
Many of the remaining congregation are women and children – widows and orphans – since most of the men have been killed.
“In the midst of Iraq we are facing the worst violence ever. You don’t see it on the television now, but in the last few months there’s been a rapid increase in violence again because elections are coming up.”
After spending more than a decade in the Middle East Canon White has witnessed destruction, bombings, and numerous kidnappings, even he has come face to face with death.
“I was kidnapped once and thrown into a room and the floor was covered with chopped off fingers and toes, and I thought mine would be next. Fortunately a church in America had given me money for my people and I did a little deal. I gave them the money and got out.”
He knows the danger that surrounds him, and admits that he and his congregation are targets, but his faith does not waiver.
“All of us are a target. It’s not just me as a Christian. All of Iraq is.”
He explains that in challenging times he often tells his congregation that hope is all you have.
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 free medical and dental care.
Canon White says he will continue providing that care for the people of Iraq.
“How can you leave the people you love?”
He also has a message for those in the Wabash Valley.
“Even though we’re thousands of miles away from each other, we’re one family, and we need each other.”
St. George’s Church of Baghdad spends over $1,000 a month in food and medical care services.
If you would like to donate you can visit http://frrme.org/