“The Vicar of Baghdad”: Peacebuilding in Iraq’s Red Zone

On Thursday, July 3rd, Peacemaker Rev. Canon Andrew White spoke with fellow Peacemakers in Action during a monthly call. When asked about his safety, White’s voice reverberated through the technological static: “Peacemaking is not about making peace in comfortable, safe places.”

That is how Rev. Canon Andrew White lives his life: beyond comfort zones and within the lawless and chaotic Red Zone in Central Baghdad, Iraq.

Lovingly dubbed the “Vicar of Baghdad,” Andrew is a steadfast leader in Baghdad not only for his church, Saint George’s Episcopal Anglican Church, but also as head of the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East, a relief and reconciliation program that supports the masses (Christians and Muslims alike) and coordinates reconciliatory efforts between Sunni and Shia leaders.

Andrew’s daily efforts, logistical challenges and reality are documented in “The Vicar of Baghdad”, a new three-part Vice Media special. Vice Media, known for being outspoken and bold in their news coverage, intimately portrays Andrew’s work on the ground. The candid look into Andrew’s daily life begins in a car; the camera shakes while lights flash red down a dimly lit street. From the passenger seat, Andrew narrates the situation, “It’s dangerous just sitting here.” These words color his actions, whether he is aware of it or not. He persists with his mission, guided by his peacebuilding practice and faith. Despite multiple kidnappings and death threats he does not sit still. Andrew is constantly on the move, visiting his parishioners and standing in solidarity with those in Iraq.

The Vicar of Baghdad has been filmed in 12-17 minute long installments. Each video is a window into the poverty, marginalization and hardships experienced in Iraq. With a backdrop of dry wit and humor, Andrew’s innate exuberance and the joy of his people are not fully dampened by their situations. The harsh environment does not mar his faithfulness, as he calmly proclaims, “My faith is everything.”

In recent days, the militant group the Islamic State, or IS, formerly called ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), continues to encroach upon Baghdad. According to Andrew, the country’s infrastructure is failing and people are dying daily. Iraq’s problems deepen with their presence and ongoing sectarian violence. Currently, Andrew and his people are surrounded by constant gunfights and dwindling outside communication. Unwavering, he continues to fight for peace and solidarity in Iraq.

Vice Media – The Vicar of Baghdad      

Part 1:

 

Part 2:

Part 3: