Christian revival coincides with violence as many seek comfort
BAGHDAD , Iraq – Attendance is booming at the Rev. Andrew White’s church as more Iraqi Christians seek solace in religion to cope with a life of car bombings, kidnappings and deprivation.
Every month, ”Canon White,” as he is known here, travels to Baghdad to minister to the faithful, including Western Protestants and Iraqi Assyrian Christians – who must be bused into the U.S.-protected Green Zone to hear him preach after al-Qaida put a price on his head.
Over the past three years, the number of Iraqis attending his services has grown to about 900, said the 41-year-old British Anglican priest.
”People turn to religion when they are desperate,” White said in an interview in a Green Zone coffee shop after conducting three Easter services. ”Because if you’ve got nothing else, you turn to God.”
The apparent Christian revival takes place against a backdrop of resurgent Muslim religiosity. Sunni and Shiite Muslim deaths are mounting daily in sectarian violence, political divisions have opened along religious lines, and there is massive attendance at both Shiite and Sunni services.
The tall, bespectacled cleric began visiting Iraq regularly in 1998, and he has witnessed profound changes since that time. During those early visits, he would preach at St. George’s Anglican Church, an arrangement facilitated by Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, the most prominent Christian in the national leadership and now a U.S. detainee.