Canon Andrew White, also known as the “Vicar of Baghdad,” recently shared sobering accounts of how the Islamic State group continues to terrorize Christians across the Middle East — and how believers in the West can help.
During a session titled “Christian Genocide” held during Proclaim 16, the NRB International Christian Media Convention in Nashville, Tennessee, White first extended greetings from “The Church. The Persecuted Church. Not just in Iraq, but many other places connected with the Middle East.”
The minister, who is widely respected for his peacemaking efforts between Christians and Muslims, was ordered by Archbishop of Canterbury to leave his church in Baghdad in December of 2014 as Christians in Iraq came under increasing threat from the Islamic State terrorists.
“Most of our people are not in Baghdad anymore. I was in Baghdad. But ISIS came in and they basically destined to massacre our people,” White recalled.
He illustrated how the city’s Christian population lived under constant threat, forcing them to escape with “whatever they had on their backs” to Erbil in northern Iraq and some farther on to Jordan. While their bodies were safe, “their hopes were destroyed,” White lamented.
The pastor revealed that during his time serving as head of St. George’s Church– the only Anglican church in Iraq–he invited members of the extremist group into his home to share with them the love of Christ.
“I have a tradition. I always invite people, even bad people, to come have dinner with me. I invited some of the ISIS leaders,” he said. “They said, ‘If we come, we’ll chop your head off.’ I didn’t invite them again.”
Christians in the Middle East continue to live in desperate conditions, lacking sufficient accommodations, food, healthcare, and education. He recalled one particularly heartbreaking story, where he met with a family who had lost their father. The pastor asked the small boy, Mario, what he could do for him.
“He put his arms around me,” White recalled, “and he said, ‘Father, will you be my daddy? Can you get me in school?”
“We Christians! We talk about looking after the Persecuted Church. You talk about helping those who are suffering for their faith. But do you mean it? Or is it just talk and prayer?” the pastor asked.
White clarified that while “prayer is a very good thing,” it’s even more important to “pray for peace and pay for peace.”
“It’s no good praying and doing nothing. If you really care, you will provide for those in need,” he said, referencing James 2:14-17, which states, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
The pastor also described how ISIS abducted women and girls as young as nine and made them sex slaves. Unfortunately, the only way to secure freedom for those kidnapped was to buy them back — which the pastor did, using almost all of his own inheritance money.
“These are your people,” he concluded. “Will you come back with me, metaphorically, and help your brothers and sisters?”
Brent Bozell III, president of the Media Research Center (MRC), then took the stage to condemn the media’s silence regarding the atrocities perpetrated by ISIS and other terrorist groups across the world.
“In 2010, a group of Muslim terrorists burst into a Catholic church in Baghdad,” he said. “They take the priests and execute all of them. They then kill a total of 58 Christians.” However, no media outlets covered these stories.
“The establishment press is not going to cover these stories,” Bozell stated. “Only you can tell the story about the most horrific cleansing of Christians in most horrific of ways by an omen that calls itself religious but, in fact, is an evil that must be stopped.”
He added, “You’re broadcasters. You’re storytellers. Tell the story.”