A VICAR who works in extraordinarily difficult and dangerous circumstances at the only remaining Anglican church in Iraq is set to visit York.
Canon Andrew White, dubbed the “Vicar of Baghdad”, has been hijacked, kidnapped and attacked while working in his role at St George’s Church, outside the Green Zone in Baghdad.
He is known for his work in the country as a mediator to maintain communication between Shia and Sunni leaders and to “gain trust of key religious leaders on both sides in various conflict areas”.
Canon White is visiting York for a series of meetings at St Michael le Belfrey Church and Archbishop Holgate’s CE School on February 6.
A spokesman for St Michael le Belfrey said: “Andrew was aware of the fear that the Iraqi people had of Saddam Hussein’s regime, and supported the invasion of Iraq, but not the aftermath.
“His lay pastor was kidnapped in April 2007. However, Andrew managed to raise the $40,000 ransom necessary to secure the pastor’s release and soon returned to Iraq, where he stays most of the time.
“On July 11, 2007, Andrew arrived in Britain after having fled Iraq following warnings of threats to his life, but returned later.
“Many of his staff have been kidnapped or killed, with up to 11 killings of staff in a single year.”
Having worked for many years in Israel and Palestine, which included negotiating the end of the Bethlehem siege in 2002, he now works in Iraq.
Canon White, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in his early 30s, also works as president of The Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East (FFRME) which specialises in engaging religious leaders in dialogue.
Canon White said: “There is no place in the world that has the profile of the Middle East – constantly in the news and constantly the scene of war. Yet amid the tragedy of the region there are few places that have such wonderful people... In the midst of conflict we seek political, diplomatic and religious solutions.”
On February 6, there will be a workers’ lunch drop-in session from 12.30pm to 1.15pm and a church leaders’ drop-in session from 1.30pm to 2.40pm at St Michael le Belfrey. Drinks will be provided, but visitors should bring a packed lunch to both meetings. There will also be an open meeting from 7.30pm to 9pm at Archbishop Holgate’s CE School in Hull Road.