‘War junkie’ vicar brings Saddam Hussein death sentence pen to Dewsbury

SPECIAL VISIT: From left, Sue Nicholls (Dewsbury assistant pastor), husband Gez Nicholls, Canon White, Paul Hudson and wife, Greta Hudson.  (d07021211)
SPECIAL VISIT: From left, Sue Nicholls (Dewsbury assistant pastor), husband Gez Nicholls, Canon White, Paul Hudson and wife, Greta Hudson. (d07021211)
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CANON Andrew White has a very special pen.

It was used to sign the death sentence for deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. “But it was borrowed from me. I didn’t sign the order myself!” said the man who is known as the vicar of Baghdad.

He has spent 13 years delivering Anglican ministry in war-torn Iraq and was in Dewsbury this week for a series of meetings spotlighting his life and work.

And the visit itself was something of a coup for hosts, the town’s Elim Church.

“For every 15 invitations I get I can only accept one,” said Canon White, who spends two-thirds of the year in Iraq, away from his wife and two sons who remain in England.

But he fulfilled a promise made to Dewsbury Elim’s senior minister, Paul Hudson, last year at a church conference in Wales. In two days, he met representatives from surrounding Elim churches, addressed a packed evening meeting, had a closed session with other faith leaders at Dewsbury Minster and went to Mirfield’s Community of the Resurrection.

Canon White, who is 46 and suffers from MS, is the vicar of St George’s Church in Baghdad. He has extensive experience of conflict mediation and has gained the trust of key religious leaders on both sides of the conflict.

His is the only Anglican church in Baghdad, although he is close to the Muslim communities. “There is just me and a curate and 4,000 members,” he said. “In the midst of war, you don’t worry about denominations.”

He said the media cannot show Iraq as bad as it really is. “It is total and utter mayhem and the US pulling out has made things worse,” said Canon White.

“But I love it. The people are wonderful and I am probably now ‘a war junkie’. That’s what I do. There is never a dull day.

“I have no desire to leave. I am in danger all the time but my work is making a difference, doing much to reduce the violence.“

Canon White said he would use his visit to Dewsbury to send out the message that ‘however bad things are, we actually love it and are serious about our faith’.

He said he was delighted to be visiting Dewsbury for the first time.