Canon White, known as the “Vicar of Baghdad” because of his church there, St. George’s, talked about the murders during an interview in Israel earlier this month with the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN). White, who was being hunted by Islamic State jihadis in Iraq, was ordered to go to Israel several weeks ago by his religious superior, the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Canon White, who has multiple sclerosis that slightly affects his speech and movement, told CBN, “Things have gotten so bad in Iraq. They came to one of our people the other day, one of the Christians – two days, two stories. They said to one man, an adult, 'Either you say the words of converting to Islam or we kill all your children.’”
“He was desperate, he said the words,” related Canon White. “And then he phoned me and said, 'Abouna, Abouna [Father], I said the words, does that mean that Yeshua [Jesus] doesn't love me any more? I said those words because I couldn’t see my children being killed. I said, ‘Elias, no, Jesus still loves you, he will always love you.'”
Canon White continued, “A few days later, another story of some of our young people. ISIS turned up and they said to the children, ‘You say the words that you will follow Mohammed.’”
“The children, all under 15, four of them,” he recounted, “they said, ‘No, we love Yeshua, we have always loved Yeshua, we have always followed Yesua. Yeshua has always been with us.’ They said, 'Say the words!' They said, 'No, we can't.'”
“They chopped all their heads off,” said Canon White. “How do you respond to that? You just cry.”
“They’re my children” spiritually, said Canon White. “That’s what we have been going through. That’s what we are going through.”
He then talked about how most of his church staff is in northern Iraq, helping the Christians, and that the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, had ordered him to leave Iraq.
“They [ISIS] were threatening to kill me, they were after me,” said Canon White. “They wanted that Abouna [priest] from England. So, the Archbishop of Canterbury said, ‘You’ve got to leave now.’ I can’t argue with the archbishop of Canterbury, especially as he used to be my colleague. We used to work together. So, I’m in Israel now. He wanted me to get out of Baghdad.”
The CBN reporter then asked, “What is it like? Is it even possible for Christians to live under ISIS right now?”
Canon white said, “No. Impossible. All of them have had to flee.”
In addition to his work as the vicar at St. George’s Church in Baghdad, Canon white is founder and president of the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East, a charity that provides spiritual, medical, and humanitarian care and also seeks reconciliation among the different religious groups in the region.