London, Nov 16 (IANS) — Official sources say there are 230 Hindus, 220 Buddhists, 90 Sikhs and 305 Muslims in the British forces. Soldiers following Christianity number 183,000.
The four chaplains appointed after an external recruitment campaign are Buddhist chaplain Sunil Kariyakarawana, Hindu chaplain Krishan Attri, Muslim chaplain Imam Asim Hafiz, and Sikh chaplain Mandeep Kaur.
The four are civil servants and have been initially appointed on a fixed term of three years. Their responsibility is to extend spiritual, moral and pastoral support to service men and women and their dependants.
Ramesh Kallidai of the Hindu Forum of Britain welcomed the appointment of a Hindu chaplain but said the government will need to do more to ensure that soldiers following Hinduism did not feel out of place in the armed forces.
Defence Secretary John Reid welcomed the four to their roles Tuesday and said: “One of the important things about service men and women is the importance that is attached to morale.
“It is not just a matter of being happy, it is not just a matter of trust and comradeship, it is also a matter of spiritual fulfilment.”
He said it was important to make sure that people of faith recognised that their beliefs should not be a barrier to entering the armed forces.
Reid added: “We are committed to providing an environment that welcomes and encourages people throughout society to build a successful military career.
“Ensuring that they enjoy spiritual support is integral to this, and the chaplains will make a huge contribution to service personnel and their dependants.”
The British armed forces have 300 regular commissioned Christian chaplains and one honorary officiating Jewish chaplain, Rabbi Wiseman. His appointment is part of a long-standing arrangement with the Jewish community.
© 2005 IANS India Private Limited, New Delhi. Posted on Religioscope with permission. — Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) is India’s first multinational and multilingual wire service. Website: www.ians.in. Subscription enquiries: contact IANS (mention Religioscope).