Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Vicar of Baghdad: 'I've looked through the Quran trying to find forgiveness... there isn’t any.'

Isis bombs have exiled Canon Andrew White to Hampshire, but he's itching to get back to the Middle East
Mary Wakefield
21 November 2015

Canon Andrew White, the vicar of Baghdad, is not, in person, at all as I’d imagined him. His memoir, about life as first a medic, then a cleric, is chock-a-block with famous friends. Pope John Paul II was a pal, the Grand Ayatollah of Baghdad, General David Petraeus. ‘Oh, Andrew knows everyone,’ I was told when I asked anyone about him, and I’m afraid my heart hardened. I arrived in the rain at his house in Liphook, Hampshire, preparing myself for a vain man, full of his own derring-do.

More fool me. Canon White is instantly, unusually lovable. He greets me wearing a sweatshirt with the caption ‘Real men become vicars’. ‘Look!’ he says delightedly. ‘Look at my hoodie!’ We talk for close to two hours about Islam, Isis and evil, and his work as a mediator between the various hate-filled factions of the Middle East. By the time I leave it occurs to me that Canon Andrew White is something of a saint.

It’s not that he’s perfect, but that he’s guileless. He’s pure of heart in the way few people over five ever are. It makes sense that he’s spent two decades as a peace-maker, negotiating with tyrants and psychopaths, because he’s utterly disarming.

We sit in his study, which is arranged like a front room in the Middle East: seats around the walls. And on most of the seats, perched or lounging, is a young person, all employed by White’s foundation (for relief and reconciliation in the Middle East). Throughout our interview they fuss over White, organise him, join in the conversation, which is interrupted from time to time by phone calls from a man called Des who has been given the job of finding for the Canon the perfect red suit-lining...

the rest of the interview-excellent!


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