8 December 2004 — Defence Minister Ivor Caplin said: “It is our aspiration to have armed forces which are representative of UK society as a whole.” The move might also help when dealing with soldiers in other armies from different faiths.
During the invasion of Iraq, British Forces chaplains in the Gulf were issued with Islamic prayer cards so that they can administer the last rites and bury Muslims killed in battle.
As well as conducting ceremonies and leading communal prayers, the chaplains could be required to travel overseas with servicemen and women deployed to war zones, such as Iraq.
The MoD’s religious advisory panel will help appoint the chaplains. The four posts will be advertised in next week’s national press and are aimed at ensuring all members of the forces receive support and that people of different faiths are not deterred from joining the services.
“It is our aspiration to have armed forces which are representative of UK society as a whole,” Mr Caplin said. “We genuinely welcome all faiths… and will make proper provision for their spiritual needs.
“These chaplains will also assist with promoting a greater understanding of faiths within the armed forces and help break down any barriers which might deter people from different faiths from joining.”
The existing Christian chaplains offer moral, pastoral and welfare support to all personnel but they do not offer spiritual guidance to other faiths.
The chaplains will be Ministry of Defence civil servants but part of the Service Chaplaincy organisations.
© 2004 Ekklesia. Posted on Religioscope with permission. An initiative of the Anvil Trust, Ekklesia is a not-for-profit think-tank which works to promote theological ideas in the public square. Website: www.ekklesia.co.uk