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Episode 52: The Vicar of Baghdad

September 19th, 2014

Episode 77 of 279 episodes

He is called the Vicar of Baghdad, though his life couldn’t be more different from the average English vicar. The Reverend Canon Andrew White leads St. George’s Church, the last Anglican church in Iraq. He also runs a clinic that sees thousands of patients a month, and a food program that feeds hundreds every week – regardless of their beliefs or religious affiliation. But though this work is much admired, it is not what has made Rev. White famous. As president of the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East, White has forged personal relationships with the heads of opposing Muslim groups in Iraq. He is one of the precious few people in the world who has the trust of both Sunni and Shia leaders. Because of this, and because of the gritty humanitarian aid he extends to Iraqis, White says he is a danger to terrorists, especially ISIS, the brutal group ruling over large swaths of Iraq and Syria. “I do not allow them to maintain their own extremist positions, and I do not allow them to say, ‘look, we have got to fight against the other’,” White says. In this week’s DecodeDC podcast, host Andrea Seabrook sits down with Rev. White in the Library of Congress. He describes the danger and difficulty of continuing his work in Baghdad, and what keeps him going. White says he is driven to go deeper into the conflict, and tells Seabrook: “You do that by listening to those who might be against you. Who is my enemy? It is the person whose story I haven’t heard. And so you listen to their story, you get to know who they are, and you befriend them. You eat with them, you become their neighbor. And then you can bring about change.”

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