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The Rev. Canon Andrew White has taken the cross of reconciliation into the harshest conflicts of the Middle East, talking regularly with leaders like Yasser Arafat and Ariel Sharon, as well as all religious leaders in Iraq. He is director of Coventry Cathedral's International Center for Reconciliation in England's West Midlands, which includes an international ministry known as the Community of the Cross of Nails. After the German Luftwaffe bombed the 14th-century Cathedral Church of St. Michael in a 1940 air raid, Anglicans made a cross from medieval nails found amid the rubble of the still-standing ruins. This cross has become the symbol of reconciliation that has driven the ministry since.

White also serves as the Archbishop of Canterbury's Special Representative to the Middle East. Based in Jerusalem, he spoke with CT's Jeff M. Sellers by telephone during a stopover in England about the religious future of post-Saddam Iraq.

What are the religious challenges in Iraq?

We're really in a very, very dangerous situation. The whole religious future of Iraq is at a crossroads. One, we need to ensure that we can support the Christian minority, but in a way that does not segregate them from the Muslim majority. Two, we've got to be careful of the extremist influences from outside—not least the Iranian Shi'ah influences. And then we've also got to be careful of some of the Sunni Wahhabi influences and the way that they will try to pour money into institutions and things and get people on their side.

How can the rights of Christians be protected?

We're not going to be able to do it any other way than by maintaining the positive relationships that we've created over the years—there's no way that we can put a wall around them and ghettoize ...

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July 2003

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