There is a $56 million ISIS bounty promised to the one who kills him. His name is Canon Andrew White and he is the vicar of the only Anglican Church in Iraq. In the midst of the chaos created by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), this particular Christian has the Islamic radicals ruffled.
Can Christianity Survive in Iraq?
Since the fall of Saddam Hussein, the Christian population in Iraq has faced a harsh and hellish struggle for survival in the war-torn state. The religious persecution has shrunk the Christian population in Iraq from over 1.5 million believers in 2003 to just a tiny fraction of that today. Christians have been forced out of the country and bombs have specifically targeted Christian churches. Priests and Bishops have faced the brunt of attacks as Islamic groups have attempted to discourage the faith that has existed in Iraq for 2,000 years.
The Vicar of Baghdad
Canon Andrew White, who is called the Vicar of Baghdad, began his peace work in Iraq in 1998 and then re-established St. George’s Church in Baghdad in 2005 in a post-Saddam Iraq. White’s church soon became the center of the community, offering hope to Iraqi Christians amid a dangerous and tumultuous environment. Through the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East, Canon White was able to also provide a Church-based school and medical clinic. Called, “Aboona” or “father” by the people of his congregation, White has been kidnapped, shot at, and endured bombings – yet his heart continues to be focused on protecting the Christian minority in Iraq. Thousands from White’s congregation have left Baghdad since ISIS broke through and the Vicar can count over a thousand who have been killed from his congregation alone.
The Church in Danger
In October, Archbishop Justin Welby ordered White to return for fear of his life. Reluctantly, Canon White left Iraq for Jerusalem where he continues to be an advocate of peace and shed light on the struggles of the Christians in Iraq. As he watches his people suffer from afar, “Aboona” wants to return to Baghdad. While many ask, “Why would you go back when it’s so dangerous?” His answer is always “Because I love my people.”
The Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East (FRRME) supports the work of Canon Andrew White and provides humanitarian relief in Iraq through St. George’s Church and Clinic. Click here to find out you can help this cause.