Anglican Canon Andrew White, the “Vicar of Baghdad”, has pastored one of the most dangerous churches in the world: St. George’s Church of Baghdad.
In Baghdad, converts are often killed within a month of their conversion. Many of the children of the parish call him “abba”, for they lost their own daddies in the fighting. Rocket attacks and bomb blasts were a common occurrence.
The canon has been hijacked, kidnapped, locked up in rooms splattered with body parts, held at gunpoint, had members of his staff murdered, and had to raise tens of thousands of dollars to pay the ransom for others who were kidnapped. If this were not enough, Andrew White also suffers from multiple sclerosis, which accounts for his balance problems and his somewhat slurred speech.
The canon is famous for the depth of pastoral love he has for his Iraqi people, and for boldly and insistently declaring that in the midst of all this horrendous evil, the Christians at Baghdad saw visible manifestations of angels and regularly experienced miracles such as the dead coming to life after being prayed for. Moreover, he said, the church always was provided for even when it seemed like the financial well had run completely dry. No matter what happened, they always had just enough money each month to be able to feed their people, maintain the parish, and also operate a free hospital (Andrew White is a trained surgical practitioner).
To find a minister in the Church of England who holds to a fully-scriptural and orthodox Christianity is a marvel in its own right; to find one who genuinely believes in the Triune God is more amazing still, and to find one who both believes and has experienced the supernatural workings of God, marks him out as a truly extraordinary fellow indeed.
On one occasion, the canon observed that Eden was located in Iraq. “This is where it all began,” he said, “and who knows, maybe this is where it will all end as well.”
These comments came back to me yesterday following a truly remarkable interview given by the Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop.
Ms Bishop is not a lady to speak lightly. Like most skilled diplomats, her words are measured and she speaks advisedly. She knows that words can be bullets. Nonetheless, on national television, Ms Bishop announced that the middle-east now consists of a proxy war between the United States and Russia.
Below is part of the transcript. The interviewer’s name was Barry Cassidy:
BARRIE CASSIDY: Now on Syria and the bombing of Aleppo in particular and the suggestion that the Russians have been involved in that, what is the relationship now between the US and Russia?
JULIE BISHOP: Well, I witnessed two meetings between the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and the US Secretary of State John Kerry. Let me say that all trust has broken down. Neither side trusts the other side and while ever the Assad regime, backed by Russia… believes that it can win militarily over the opposition groups backed by the US and the Gulf countries, the killing and the war will continue. Likewise, the opposition groups believe that they can defeat the Assad regime militarily. I believe that all options have to be on the table. It seems that Russia has given up any pretence of a ceasefire at this point and the violence and the atrocities going on in Aleppo are unprecedented.
BARRIE CASSIDY: But if all trust is broken down, will they continue to talk?
JULIE BISHOP: They must. They have to continue to talk because the indiscriminate bombing is killing thousands of civilians. It is a humanitarian disaster on an unprecedented scale. Nothing we’ve seen in our lifetime. And the international community is willing both Russia and the US and their supporters to sit down and try and find a way through this. A ceasefire is absolutely central so that humanitarian relief can reach those in need. But we need to find a political solution to what is essentially a civil war and then, of course, ISIL is operating in the vacuum.
BARRIE CASSIDY: Are we anywhere near a point where the US might start bombing the Assad regime and what would be the consequences of that?
JULIE BISHOP: That would be an all-out war. We are currently seeing a proxy war between Russia and the US and other players in this disaster but I urge all of the parties to continue to talk. There has to be a diplomatic and political solution, not just a military solution. In fact I don’t believe there will be a military solution and one option would be an arms embargo. One option would be for both sides to withdraw military support from the regime, from the opposition groups and force them to the negotiating table.
Terrible things are taking place in the middle-eastern nations. It is a whirlwind that is spitting out refugees, and sucking in nations and arms to ever-expanding war. And now two of the world’s most powerful nuclear-capable nations, one on the verge of electing a volatile real-estate tycoon as leader and the other with a virtual dictator in charge, no longer trust each other. In fact, they are fighting their conflict via the proxy of different sides in the middle east. This does not portend well.
“Watch and pray.”