A solemn man in ornate religious attire addresses the people in his church. All are safe and have nothing to fear. This may seem like the norm for an ordinary priest, but for the Vicar of Baghdad, facing the unknown every time he steps into the pulpit is reality.
Canon Andrew White has been shot at, kidnapped and held captive in a room with a floor covered with severed toes and fingers. ISIS has put a price of $157 million on his head. He has stirred up the Middle East with his sights set on peace and his heart pouring out the love of God.
On April 30, White will grace the graduating class with his powerful story as the 2016 commencement speaker.
“Canon White has a powerful testimony that will be an inspiration to our students as they leave ORU and go ‘to the uttermost bounds of the Earth,’” said ORU President William M. Wilson. “Our community looks forward to hearing his words of faith and wisdom.”
White pastored one of the largest churches in Iraq, St.George’s Church in Baghdad until 2014. Unfortunately the area became more life threatening, making traveling there very difficult. He remains the Vicar of St.George’s, keeping his thoughts and prayers on the congregation.
For the past 10 years White has worked as the president of the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation
in the Middle East (FRRME), which provides spiritual and material relief to the refugees who fled from war zones. He has spent most of his time in Jordan, where he has built a school for Iraqi children. The school also provides food, medical assistance and shelter, made possible by charitable donations.
White continues to fight for peace in the Middle East while fighting his own battle with Multiple Sclerosis.
The disease affects his vision and his balance, yet he has never lost sight of his passion. White has been awarded several prizes for his accomplishments including: the ICCJ Prize for Intellectual Contribution to Jewish-Christian Relations, the International Sternberg Prize, the Tanenbaum Peace Prize, the William Wilberforce Award and the Anne Frank Award given to him by the Dutch Government.
White has proved what it takes to truly love an enemy — even when they have put a price on his head, even when war seems inevitable.
“If you want to make peace you can’t just do it with the nice people. Nice people don’t cause wars,” White said.
Joshua Knight (Student)
Joshua Knight will be the student speaker for the 2016 ORU commencement ceremony. Knight is a finance major originally from Livermore, California.
One student is selected each year to represent the graduating class as the student speaker at commencement. This opportunity is highly competitive.
“I am so excited about the amazing opportunity I have been given, but I also feel the weight associated with this honor,” Knight said. “Having the opportunity to address all of my peers and the faculty is a tremendous responsibility that I don’t take lightly.”
Each college within ORU selected a student to compete for the student speaker position. The students met at 7 a.m. in the Board of Trustees dining room a week after being nominated. They presented their speeches in front of several communication professors and other faculty members.
“I had to give my speech last, so I had plenty of time to anticipate the moment and learn to handle the butterflies,” Night said. “When the moment came, I was more excited than anything.”
Knight has done nothing short of exemplary work while studying at ORU. He has a 3.96 GPA and only one “B” throughout his college career, which occurred in Professor Unruh’s “infamous” intermediate accounting course. He is completing his undergrad degree in three years, bringing in a whole year of AP credit from high school. He is an active member of ENACTUS and The Accounting Society.
Knight has been awarded several outstanding awards including the Outstanding Academic Achievement in Finance and the ONEOK Excellence Award. These awards are the cherry on top of consistently making the President’s Honor Role, being the four-time winner of the Fun Run and holding the record for the Triathlon Training class.
Knight has been greatly impacted by his years spent at ORU and is passionate about what the university represents.
“I want the student body to be genuinely inspired to live a Christ-centered life even in the mundane moments when it seems like we aren’t making a difference,” Knight said. “I want to encourage them that we can change the world, not necessarily by our own efforts, but by constantly yielding to God. Essentially I want to remind them of their overarching purpose, which is to be sold-out lovers of Jesus in all we do.”
Story by Daisha Fowler, Courtesy Photo