fascinating man

Yesterday at St Mark’s we had a high profile visitor – Canon Andrew White, who is one of the senoir people in the Community of the Cross of Nails, a reconciliation organization with roots at Coventry Cathedral in England. Canon White has worked in situations all round the world, lately in Israel, Iraq and Nigeria. It sounds like he is one of the few people who many different sides trust, although this often puts him in difficult situations even with his own boss, the Archbishop of Canterbury. This was evident recently when he had to tell people back in Britain that many Iraqis he spoke with were clamouring for a war to remove Saddam. Quite a surprise, and a difficult message to take home when the Church of England had been campaigning so stridently against it.

He told a rather charming story about Yasser Arafat, whom he said for a long time he found very difficult to like. However this was changed by his (Father Andrew’s) young son Jacob, who was coming up for his birthday (5th I think). Because he often saw his dad on TV with Arafat, he assumed that they were friends, and when he was asked who he’d like at his birthday, he said “Yasser Arafat”. So when Father Andrew next went to see Arafat, which was during the siege of his compound so after a lot of negotiation even to make it through to see him, he gave Arafat a letter from his son, inviting him to his birthday party. Apparently Arafat had been in there alone for several days at this point, so this must have been about the most disarming thing to have been given, and he actually took off his headdress and wrote a reply.

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