Blogs > Liberty and Power > Meet the Vicar of Baghdad

Jul 17, 2006 12:07 am

Meet the Vicar of Baghdad

Stephen Moss interviews Andrew White, vicar of St. George's, Baghdad.

"White is now more diplomat than churchman - the foundation, though it has a Christian ethos, is independent of the Anglican church - but he may be the least diplomatic diplomat in the world. I ask him about one recent remark – 'I’ve got no time for trendy leftie peaceniks.' He is more than happy to amplify: 'I can pretend to like them, but I find it very difficult. You don't get through to problems or understand the situation by standing in front of tanks. Going into a situation that puts British embassy personnel in danger or puts themselves in danger is not the way forward. I can remember when I was negotiating on the Church of the Nativity siege in 2002. We had nine trendy peaceniks break into the church, and the siege went on longer because of them.'

"He doesn't like 'woolly liberals', either. When he was parish priest in Clapham, London, in the 1990s, he combined pastoral care with being a Tory [Conservative] councillor – 'It was quite useful having a vicar who dealt with everything, God and Mammon,' he says, with his strange, high-pitched laugh - and he still takes what politicians like to call a robust line with liberals, especially in the church. 'I can cope with anything,' he says when I ask him where he stands theologically. 'I can cope very well with orthodoxy - Greek Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox - I can cope with Anglo-Catholicism, evangelicalism, charismatics. I just can't cope with the woolly liberal bit in the middle that doesn't believe much.'

"It is in Baghdad and Gaza - among the believers - that he clearly feels most at home. 'I love the Middle East,’ he says. 'I love the people, I love the way they express their faith, I love their food. They're not woolly liberals. I have never found any woolly liberals in the Middle East.'"

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