2010 Civil Courage Prize Honoree
Reverend Canon Andrew White of Iraq and the United Kingdom
Middle East Peace Maker
A courageous leader in the struggle for peace in Iraq and the Middle East, the Reverend Canon Andrew White has worked since 2003 to reconcile Iraq’s disparate religious factions. He and his staff are under constant threat from sectarian militia, and yet he has mediated the release of kidnap victims, negotiated a joint Sunni-Shiite fatwa seeking peace, and operates medical and dental clinics providing basic services to all who need them, regardless of religious affiliation.
An award ceremony was held in New York on October 18, 2010.
Year 2010 Award Recipient
A key participant in the peace process in Iraq, Canon White's notable dedication to non-violent solutions has led him to build relationships with many of the most senior religious leaders within the Sunni, Shia, Kurdish, Christian and other minority communities. Canon White has led the voices that condemn sectarian violence, while supporting the rights of religious minorities and the emergence of an Iraqi state under the rule of law.
Canon White, also known as the "Vicar of Baghdad," is rector of St George's Church Baghdad, an ecumenical congregation and the last Anglican church in Iraq. In 2005, he co-founded the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East, of which he is President and CEO, but his dedication to peace can be seen many years earlier when he served as Resident Canon and Director of the International Centre of Reconciliation (ICR), beginning in 1998. Initially, his work focused on Nigeria and the horrific riots in Kaduna in 2000. From 2001-2003 he was the Archbishop of Canterbury's Special Envoy to the Middle East, during which time he began building many important relationships with Iraq's religious leaders.
Canon White's facilitation of ongoing inter-religious dialogue in Iraq has resulted in 2004's Baghdad Religious Accord, the formation of the Iraqi Institute for Peace, a series of conferences among senior Iraqi religious leaders, and 2008's historic joint Sunni-Shia Fatwa condemning sectarian violence. Canon White also initiated a similar process between religious leaders of Israel and Palestine, known as the Alexandria Process after the Egyptian port city where the talks took place. The Alexandria Process provided a model for the subsequent efforts in Iraq.
Canon White and his staff are exposed to considerable danger and are under constant threat of death and kidnapping. He has been beaten, held at gunpoint and had his quarters ransacked. The Iraqi armed forces now provide him with a security detail and the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office has insisted on him leaving the country at times. Nevertheless, he continues to return to pursue his important work. The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, states that these threats have "not curtailed his desire to make a difference and I am quite sure that he would be willing to take the ultimate step of laying down his life, if it made a difference for peace."
In addition to his reconciliation work, Canon White, who himself lives with Multiple Sclerosis, also operates medical and dental clinics in Baghdad that provide services to all who need them, regardless of religious affiliation. He has also worked as a mediator in over a hundred cases of kidnapping, effecting a successful release in many of those cases.
Born in London, Canon White studied medicine at St. Thomas' Hospital, London, qualifying as an Operating Department Practitioner and anesthesiologist in 1985. He later studied theology at Ridley Hall, University of Cambridge, and was ordained in 1990. He is married and has two sons.
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