Founder of Christian aid charity suspended for comments about Islamic State

The comments by Canon Andrew White, president of the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East, are also being investigated by the Charity Commission

Canon Andrew White
Canon Andrew White

< This story has been amended; see final paragraph

The founding president of a Christian aid charity working in the Middle East has been suspended after he made controversial comments about its work with former captives of Islamic State and the Charity Commission has opened an investigation.

Canon Andrew White, founder and president of the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East, confirmed on his Facebook page today he had been suspended after making comments about how the charity had helped sex slaves held by IS.

The charity’s trustees said in a statement that White had been suspended, but they believed his comments "stemmed from a genuine desire to help others".

The commission said in a statement on its website that it had opened a statutory inquiry into the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East on 9 June, but it did not give the reasons for opening the investigation and said it could not comment further at this time.

White, dubbed the Vicar of Baghdad, is a well-known figure in the Anglican community. He has worked in Israel and Palestine for more than a decade and served as vicar of St George's church in Baghdad between 2004 and 2014.

Since 2005 he has been president of the charity, which provides emergency relief to Christians and other persecuted minorities in Northern Iraq and to Iraqi refugees in Jordan.

The charity was registered with the commission in 2010 and in 2014 the charity had an income of £3m and spent £1.9m.

In a Facebook post made earlier today, White said he had been suspended, but appeared to be asking supporters to contribute funds to allow him to continue his work in a personal capacity.

The post said: "As you may have heard, I have been suspended from my role as president of the FRRME.

"This is in response to some inaccurate statements I made about our work with and funding for the former slave girls taken by Isis. What is clear is that at no time did we pay money to any terrorists.

"While I cannot work on behalf of the FRRME, I continue to lead worship and support individuals we are helping. Please pray for us at this very difficult time."

In a second post, he wrote that he was still able to do his work, but not in the name of the foundation.

"To make things worse, none of my expenses of my work are paid any more, not even my travel," he wrote.

"So I had to pay my own flight, and even if any of my staff do anything for me I have to pay them myself. So in reality we are desperate. Please help us."

A statement by the trustees on the charity's website confirmed that White had been suspended with pay, pending the commission's findings.

"The foundation is cooperating fully with the appropriate authorities," it said.

"It would be inappropriate to comment further on an active investigation other than to say that the foundation believes at this stage that the alleged incident stemmed from a genuine desire by Canon White to help others."

< The original story said that the Charity Commission had opened an investigation in response to a statement made by Canon White. However, the commission did not name Canon White in its announcement. Canon White confirmed separately that he had made the statement.

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