Four Christian children were beheaded by Islamic State jihadists in Iraq for refusing to convert to Islam, according to an Anglican priest commonly known as the “Vicar of Baghdad.”
Speaking in late November from Jerusalem to the Orthodox Christian Network, Canon Andrew White recounted the killings, his voice full of emotion.
“ISIS turned up and they said to the children, ‘You say the words that you will follow Muhammad,'” he said. “And the children, all under 15, four of them, they said “No, we love Yesua [Jesus]. We have always loved Yesua. We have always followed Yesua. Yesua has always been with us.
“They said, ‘Say the words!’ They said, ‘No, we can’t.’ They chopped all their heads off. How do you respond to that? You just cry.”
“They are my children,” he said. “That is what we have been going through and that is what we are going through.”
White said IS was searching for him, leading the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Anglican Church’s highest official, to ordered him out of Baghdad. “I am in Israel now,” he said.
The Islamic State group holds about a third of Iraq and neighboring Syria, and has released a series a grisly videos showing beheadings and other executions.
White said that 250,000 Iraqi Christians are still displaced, and that Iraqi Christians, who once numbered 1.5 million, are fleeing the country.
White is the vicar of Baghdad’s St. George’s Church, the only Anglican church in Iraq.
The Vicar of Baghdad reopened St. George’s in 2003, along with Justin Welby, a fellow member of the Anglican clergy with whom he had worked at England’s Coventry Cathedral.
Welby is now the Archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the Anglican church.
St George’s, which was founded in 1863, was closed down by Saddam Hussein. It now has the largest congregation of any church in Iraq, at 6,500. About 600 of its regulars are Muslims.
White, with an extensive background in and knowledge of Judaism, studied in an ultra-Orthodox yeshiva in Jerusalem and at the Hebrew University. He and his wife Caroline named their two sons Yossi (Josiah) and Jacob. Now in his late 40s, he did his doctorate at Cambridge on the role of Israel in Christian theology. He also served for a time as the Kashrut officer at Cambridge’s Jewish Society, “though I was too frum for them.”
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.