(even after suffering Covid isolation and temporary blindness)
by Charles Gardner
LONDON, 25 May, 2021 – An Anglican minister who has long been involved with reconciliation in the Middle East has spoken of his dealings with Hamas, the terror group behind the latest violent confrontation with Israel.
Former ‘Vicar of Baghdad’ Canon Andrew White, who led a thriving church in the heart of Iraq before being forced to flee, has been sharing his experiences in an online interview while still recovering from a serious bout of Covid.
Arranged by the Church’s Ministry among Jewish people (CMJ), hundreds of supporters tuned in to the broadcast.
Having suffered with Multiple Sclerosis for the past 20 years, the intrepid cleric suspected a major flare-up of the disease and was admitted to hospital in Guildford, where he was diagnosed with a very bad dose of the coronavirus.
“It was one of the worst experiences of my life,” he said. “I’ve been kidnapped and locked up in dungeons. But this was worse. I was in total and utter isolation. I completely lost the use of the right side of my body and lost my vision for two days, which was so frightening. I was allowed no visitors – not even my wife – for 18 weeks, but I’ve gone from the Covid zone to the glory zone.”
There was, however, some joy during his time in hospital. Concerned that he would have no-one with whom to speak Hebrew, Arabic or Aramaic, it turned out that a Filipino nurse who had worked in Israel spoke fluent Hebrew, a Jordanian physiotherapist spoke Arabic and a consultant neurologist spoke Aramaic – the language of Jesus which Andrew speaks when he’s not in England. Not only that, but the consultant had been in Andrew’s Sunday School at St George’s, Baghdad, when he was ten years old! “We immediately started speaking Aramaic and praising God that we were there together.”
Having trained as an anaesthetist before becoming ordained, Andrew now spends much of his time working among refugees in Amman, Jordan, where he runs a school with 400 children (formerly part of his Sunday School in Baghdad) as well as a medical clinic for which funds have tragically dried up since he was taken ill. He longs to return there.
Author of ‘The Glory Zone in the War Zone’ (published by Destiny Image), his experience reminds him of Paul’s letter to the Romans in which the Apostle says that “our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).
Andrew added: “I want to share with people the glory of the presence of God. A lot of my work has been in reconciliation, and has included working with Hamas leaders. I am called to be a peacemaker. You can’t make peace with nice people; nice people don’t cause wars. I’ve had to learn to be a friend of enemies.
“I was working on getting hostages out of Gaza years ago – only because I know the bad guys,” adding that he has often been saved from major calamity through God’s miraculous intervention.
Canon White comes from an Assemblies of God background and takes great pride in his connection with Pentecostal pioneer Smith Wigglesworth, reputed to have raised 14 people from the dead. Andrew’s grandfather was the legend’s right-hand man and inherited Smith’s Bible, which the fearless negotiator takes with him wherever he goes despite the fact it’s falling to pieces.
Canon White, whose Baghdad church was founded in 1864 by missionaries from CMJ’s Jerusalem headquarters, has a long connection with the ministry. “Going against the Jews is going against Jesus, because he was a Jew. So we must love the Jews,” he said.
He called for the Church to return to its roots, reminding them of the fundamental role played by Israel, for whom we should be praying, adding that we should also not only be praying, but also ‘paying’, for the persecuted Church who were in desperate need of funding.