Andrew White was in the thick of matters in Iraq long before September 11. In 1998, at age 33, he was appointed a canon at Coventry Cathedral, England, as director of international ministry and head of the International Centre for Reconciliation. The center promotes reconciliation (mainly religious) across the globe, and White concentrated his efforts on the Middle East, mediating many kidnapping and hostage disputes, and helping Shia and Sunni leaders trust one another.
In 2005, White became the vicar of St. George's Church just outside the Green Zone in Baghdad. He has been dubbed the Vicar of Baghdad, because St. George's is the only Anglican church left in Iraq. White has received a number of humanitarian awards, the latest being the 2011 International First Freedom Award, which has also been awarded to such people as Tony Blair.
CT senior managing editor Mark Galli recently spoke with White via Skype.
Where were you on September 11, 2001? What were you doing?
I was sitting in my office in Coventry Cathedral, packing my bags to go to Baghdad the next day. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I arrived in Baghdad a week later. I walked into the office of [then Deputy Prime Minister] Tariq Aziz. He said, "Andrew, tell them we had nothing to do with it." I didn't think what I was saying, but I shouted at him, "It doesn't matter whether you did or not! They are still all coming to get you." And they did.
The day before 9/11, what were your greatest fears and hopes for Christian-Muslim relations in Iraq?
As early as 1998, I was saying that the biggest problem was not going to be the Eastern European or Communist countries but the Islamic world. I believed we needed to keep engaged with the Islamic world. I was very aware of the ...