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Old 03-04-2006   #1
Jedburgh
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Default Chaplains as Liaisons with Religious Leaders: Lessons From Iraq and Afghanistan

Just published, by USIP: Chaplains as Liaisons with Religious Leaders: Lessons From Iraq and Afghanistan
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In Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as in countless other hotspots around the world, religion has been a major factor in matters of war and peace. Since religion often plays a significant role in conflicts, it also needs to be one of the factors addressed in mediating conflicts. Yet, because the United States separates religion from political matters to a greater degree than many other areas of the world, Americans frequently have difficulty understanding the crucial role religion can play in conflict transformation.

As this study demonstrates, military chaplains, as clergy and officers, occupy a unique space that blends a secular status and a religious one, making them well suited to serve as intermediaries between military and religious leaders in areas of conflict and postconflict stabilization. While chaplains are not positioned to take on such major conflict mediation tasks as healing historic wounds in ethnic and sectarian conflict, they are positioned to communicate with religious leaders in discrete areas of conflict and contribute toward improved dialogue, trust, coordination, problem solving, and localized violence reduction. By drawing on the experiences of fourteen chaplains who had substantial interaction with religious leaders in Iraq and/or Afghanistan, or who supervised other chaplains involved in such activities, the author provides an exploratory study of the important mediating role chaplains can play in overseas military operations.

After briefly examining the military guidelines that provide the basis for chaplains to act as liaisons with religious leaders, the author examines the chaplain’s dual standing as a clergyperson and a military officer and the boundaries of the chaplain’s potential role as liaison. Specifically, the author unequivocally states that the primary mediating focus of chaplains should be on establishing communications and building relationships with local religious leaders on the ground—not on attempting to negotiate the resolution of broad historical problems. In harvesting the accounts of the fourteen chaplains whom he interviewed, the author next offers key peacebuilding principles and lessons that are informed by a sound reading of conflict resolution literature. For example, he finds that all chaplain outreach efforts must be balanced with security concerns to ensure not just the chaplains’ safety but also that of the local religious leaders with whom they meet. Further, he finds that chaplains who wish to serve in such a manner must have a willingness and ability to interact with religious leaders of other faiths and must not be theologically and personally inclined to view those of other faiths as enemies. Ultimately, the accounts he offers are meant to provide real-world examples of successful civil-military relations and to provide crucial guidance for chaplains to follow when serving as liaisons between the military and local religious leaders in overseas conflict zones.

While the primary role of military chaplains is to minister to the troops, as this study powerfully illustrates, chaplains can do much to not only mediate conflict on the ground but also help win the hearts and minds of local populations in support of U.S. combat and postconflict stability operations throughout the world.
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Old 03-04-2006   #2
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I haven't read more than the excerpt above, but I think it is a good idea.

My dad is a bishop and from what I've heard and witnessed of/on many trips, that can open doors. Also, being a priest not only serves as a diplomatic authority that people will look to and see as our "front people" (bad wording, and whether or not they are can be discussed, but from an alien perspective) and who can show our side of the story of a very important part of their lives. It may, too, grant a way of connecting closely with the people, and that they see that coming from a higher level of society. It gives credence to good nature. (unless they believe you are satan...)

Specifically thinking of Zimbabwe right now, although the situation should be similar in some other places: it's harder to twist statements of a priest. It's harder to touch him without angering the people. And people may tend to misinterpret positively rather than negatively.

Just a few immediate thoughts...
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Old 03-17-2006   #3
Reid Bessenger
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Default Military Professionalism in the Chaplain Corps

I read the piece, and from the limited exposure I have to the Navy Chaplain Corps regarding military training and education, I think that the tone here may be too optimistic.

To function in this unique role as a liaison for religious issues in the culture confronted in an operating environment, it seems to me that much education would be necessary. This would be an endeavor in which a well intended person could easily damage a force's access and the perception of that force in its operating area. I expect that there are exceptional individuals who would find the role within their capability. For instance, I've known a few chaplains who were serving line officers prior to becoming chaplains, and a subset of them may have the knowledge and perspective of the operating requirements for the force, the diverse cultural sensitivities in a particular area, and the role they can play. However, institutional solutions don't successfully leverage the exceptional individual. There are very real current issues confronting employment of chaplains that don't appear to be approching resolution without seeking this massive expansion of capability at an individual level.
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Old 06-20-2007   #4
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Here's a rarity for those with AKO access - an interesting, substantive discussion on AKO:

Religious Support in COIN Operations
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Old 06-21-2007   #5
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Default Thanks. Interesting discussion.

Particularly so as it was started by an NCO and has more Chap asst input than Chap input.

Aloo interesting that the "save the Corps" statement appears...

Sigh.
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Old 06-21-2007   #6
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This issue has been a continuing issue of debate in the Chaplain Corps and between it and the rest of the Army. You can find some on it at CALL.

Tom
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Old 06-21-2007   #7
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If it's any consolation, "Big Army" is having us write chaplains into the non-kinetic fight at the major CTCs. I don't know what impact it is having "down-range," but the scenarios are...intriguing, to say the least.
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Old 06-21-2007   #8
Bill Moore
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Default The troops first

Let's not forget the primary purpose of the Chaplain is to provide spiritual support to the unit and Soldiers, which is a full time job. I support the operational concept, but I think these should be specially trained Chaplains that are attached to the unit for this purpose, so the assigned Chaplain can still do his primary job.
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Old 06-21-2007   #9
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Hi 120,

Quote:
Originally Posted by 120mm View Post
If it's any consolation, "Big Army" is having us write chaplains into the non-kinetic fight at the major CTCs. I don't know what impact it is having "down-range," but the scenarios are...intriguing, to say the least.
Don't tell me they are finally thinking of setting up the US Magi Corps !

Bill's comment about their primary mission being to provide "spiritual support to the unit and soldiers" is bang on. Although, I suppose it all depends on just how you define "spiritual support"...

Marc
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Old 02-07-2008   #10
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I think the Army is making a huge mistake by using chaplains and the chaplain's corps in an operational setting (by operational I mean ops in Iraq that are tied to the people, culture, and ENEMY). The link to an AKO discussion on this issue had one posting mentioning the UMT's involvement in the "targeting process." I am not sure exactly what the poster was getting at but even mentioning UMTs and targeting in the same clause makes me squeamish.

For me there are clear ethical and moral lines that keeps a combat unit chaplain away from any sort of engagement with the locals (beyond incidental hand-shaking and hellos while on a patrol or ops with soldiers) because even in the most subtle and indirect way that engagement could produce relationships that end up in the killing of the enemy. To consider it in any other way is not to understand the nature of operations in a counterinsurgency fight.

I like to think of it in the same way that this same problem was posed in the classic World War II movie on combat leadership "Twelve O’clock High" when the commanding officer of the bombardment wing discovered his chaplain had stowed away on one of the B17s on a bombing mission. The commander respected the chaplain's desire to be with the men on a mission but then rebuked him by stating that his duty was not toward the engagement of the enemy but on "sin." By that he meant the Chaplain’s focus was on his own troops; and that only.

I had a superb combat chaplain with me in Baghdad in 2006. He often went out on patrol and on ops but only to be with the soldiers to experience what they did; not, not to influence operations in any way.

I think this a further example of how our all-consuming fetish with Coin is pushing us in directions that we should not be heading.

gg
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Old 02-07-2008   #11
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Hi Gian,

I can certainly understand your reticence in having chaplains involved in operations. You post crystallized a couple of things that have been running around in my head for a bit.

First, what is the "role" of Chaplains? Right now, the US military recognizes many religions other than Christianity, which provided the basic role. Given the diversity of religions represented in both the US military and the Chaplains corps, it would be useful to a) reconsider their role and b) reconsider the use of the term "chaplain". Generically, the term would be "religious specialist" since, technically, a "chaplain" is a person who holds office in a chapel, although I have no doubt that they will keep getting called "chaplain" .

Second, whose orders are they under? This is a tricky one for a number of different religions, and it has a direct bearing on operational use. For example, the idea that Chaplains will not be armed comes out of the Peace of God movement in 10th century France. But many religions do not bar their "chaplains" from fighting. How would the chaplains corps deal with a priest whose religion demanded s/he be armed (and I can think of two right now that do)?

Marc
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Old 02-07-2008   #12
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I'll try to get the MSG (Chap Assist) here at Leavenworth who is the proponent of placing chaplains in the operational role - I started with the position of Gian but have begun to come around to the MSG's view - somewhat. I wouldn't have used my BN chaplain in that role, but that was mainly because he wasn't cut for it. The infantry BN chaplain mentioned in the CALL IIR on 1/1 AD was a superb stud, and did great things with religious engagement. To wit "Rank is nothing, talent is everything".

His main point is that we need to engage religious leaders, and the chaplains are suited for that and have the doctrinal role of advisor on religious issues. If he jumps in here, he'll explain further.
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Old 02-07-2008   #13
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Hi Cavguy,

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Originally Posted by Cavguy View Post
I'll try to get the MSG (Chap Assist) here at Leavenworth who is the proponent of placing chaplains in the operational role.... His main point is that we need to engage religious leaders, and the chaplains are suited for that and have the doctrinal role of advisor on religious issues. If he jumps in here, he'll explain further.
I hope he does jump in. Personally, I am in favour of chaplains being involved in, for want of a better term, "dialogic operations".
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Old 02-07-2008   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by marct View Post
Hi Gian,

I can certainly understand your reticence in having chaplains involved in operations. You post crystallized a couple of things that have been running around in my head for a bit.

First, what is the "role" of Chaplains? Right now, the US military recognizes many religions other than Christianity, which provided the basic role. Given the diversity of religions represented in both the US military and the Chaplains corps, it would be useful to a) reconsider their role and b) reconsider the use of the term "chaplain". Generically, the term would be "religious specialist" since, technically, a "chaplain" is a person who holds office in a chapel, although I have no doubt that they will keep getting called "chaplain" .

Second, whose orders are they under? This is a tricky one for a number of different religions, and it has a direct bearing on operational use. For example, the idea that Chaplains will not be armed comes out of the Peace of God movement in 10th century France. But many religions do not bar their "chaplains" from fighting. How would the chaplains corps deal with a priest whose religion demanded s/he be armed (and I can think of two right now that do)?

Marc
I don't have chapter and verse (no pun intended) , but the Chaplain basically serves following official functions:

- Advisor to the commander on morale and spiritual health of the troops
- Conducts services appropriate for his religious background and ensures all troops have access to appropriate services for their denomination
- Acts as counselor and support to troops, regardless of religion
- Helps support families and soldiers through programs like marrage enrichment, single soldier activities, etc.
- Procures and coordinates morale items for troops (packages, movies, goodies, etc.)
- As a member of the staff, provides input to the MDMP process on religious issues in the operational plan.
- Coordinates memorial services and ministers to wounded.

I may have missed a few, but that is most of it. The chaplain is a non-combatant under the Geneva convention, and prohibited from carrying a weapon. Hence, his Chaplain's assistant is also his "bodyguard". I hadn't thought through the legal implications (if any) of participating on something like a targeting process and its effect on his Geneva status. Have to ask a lawyer.
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Old 02-07-2008   #15
Gian P Gentile
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not me; but i have already stated my position. I would like to hear an argument for doing it by an army chaplain that goes beyond doctrine and into the moral and ethical realms.

gg
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Old 02-07-2008   #16
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Hi Gian,

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Originally Posted by Gian P Gentile View Post
not me; but i have already stated my position. I would like to hear an argument for doing it by an army chaplain that goes beyond doctrine and into the moral and ethical realms.
Agreed. Personally, I see nothing wrong with it IFF they see nothing wrong with it. Again, speaking purely personally, I find the restrictions imposed on non-Christian "chaplains" to be somewhat at odds with other religions, and I would like to see some discussion on that area as well.

Marc
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Old 02-07-2008   #17
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Quote:
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Hi Gian,
Agreed. Personally, I see nothing wrong with it IFF they see nothing wrong with it. Again, speaking purely personally, I find the restrictions imposed on non-Christian "chaplains" to be somewhat at odds with other religions, and I would like to see some discussion on that area as well.
Marc
Hello Marc:

Well if I were king for a day i would not leave the decision up to the individual chaplains if they wanted to be part of coin operations. As I said before in my mind the role of the chaplain in combat is the spiritual and moral well being of the unit, and should not be involved in engagement operations with local religious leaders. There is enough to do for chaplain in the unit itself.

I would not have cared one bit if the Army had given me a Muslim chaplain, Catholic, Jewish, Buddhist, whatever since his/her role is not to proselytize but to use his/her own faith as a medium to assist in the spiritual and moral well being of the unit; which in combat can be quite a demanding job.

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Old 02-07-2008   #18
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Hi Gian,

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gian P Gentile View Post
Well if I were king for a day i would not leave the decision up to the individual chaplains if they wanted to be part of coin operations. As I said before in my mind the role of the chaplain in combat is the spiritual and moral well being of the unit, and should not be involved in engagement operations with local religious leaders. There is enough to do for chaplain in the unit itself.
I have no problem with that as one role of religious specialists. But let's pull this apart for a minute if you don't mind, since I really think it is germaine to he discussion. What would you think of a chaplain performing an exorcism on UBL? What are your opinions about "Spiritual Warfare" as practiced by a large number of evangelical Pentecostals in the US? To my mind, if you believe in the existence of a spiritual realm then a) there will be some form of conflict in it and b) "religious specialists" (whether we call them priests, ministers, chaplains, imams, etc.) are already on the frontlines.

Let me back off for a minute and point out that I really am not trying to be a #### over this. What I am trying to point out is that if you hold a religious seriously, then the "spiritual wellbeing" of a unit may well involve "combat operations" in the spiritual realm. If this is the case, then it strikes me that the operational limitations imposed by the Chaplains' Corps may be limiting the effectiveness of individuals operating within the field.

At the same time, this is, for want of a better phrase, a matter of individual conscience. I have know priest who would not engage in this type of conflict and, also, those who would. I don't think that either state can be required since it is a matter of individual "conviction" as it were. That was why I said that it had to be left up to the individual consciences of the "chaplains". BTW, I should have noted that if they did choose to so engage, that should not abrogate them from their primary duty of guarding the spiritual and moral wellbeing of the unit under their care.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gian P Gentile View Post
I would not have cared one bit if the Army had given me a Muslim chaplain, Catholic, Jewish, Buddhist, whatever since his/her role is not to proselytize but to use his/her own faith as a medium to assist in the spiritual and moral well being of the unit; which in combat can be quite a demanding job.
I really don't think that proselytization comes into it, except amongst those chaplains who are so insecure that they must proselytize. Also, I would never advocate religious proslytization as a tactic. First, it will backfire, and second it is unethical. Let me toss out an hypothetical at you - what if the Army had given you an Asatruar Priest or a Gardneran Witch who provided you with targeting information?

Marc
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Old 02-07-2008   #19
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I've been unsuccessful in contacting my Chaplain Corps contact, he picked today to be off the net. Let me clarify before the thread spins into stereotypical and extreme worse case scenarios -

The Army Chaplain understands the requirement not to attempt to "convert" either the soldiers or the local populace. The Chaplaincy is a command assist to the soldiers, not an opportunity for a denomination to seek new adherents.

Again, not sure of policy, but I believe all chaplains must be certified by a recognized religious denomination. Yes, the Army "certifies" what these are, and the Chaplains must be graduates of a recognized seminary or ordaining institution for the religion, which must have certain educational and credentialing standards, such as training in counseling, etc. I believe Wiccans were recently certified, but most of the true fringe organizations don't make the requirements for qualification as a Chaplain.

The example you cite of some crazy chaplain trying to exorcize UBL would never happen.

What the discussion IS talking about is using the chaplain to conduct interfaith dialogue and outreach to local religious leaders, as MarcT suggests in the above. Some units in Iraq have had great success in establishing rapport between the local religious leaders and the Chaplain, which can then be used to help further stability in their area of operations. I agree that not all Chaplains are comfortable with that, or suited for it. What my MSG friend argues is that the Chaplain corps should train for it, and is ducking responsibility by not training preparing/directing chaplains to conduct religous outreach. (NOTE: not conversion - speaking of dialogue)

The Chaplain is also paid/trained to be a source of religious insight into other religions. Being a military officer is a profession - and Chaplains are professionals. Being able to describe and provide educated insight into other religious practices and their influence upon operations is one of the key contributions a good chaplain can make.

I have had very few "excellent" chaplains in the past eleven years, but have never had one I would consider a wingnut or unprofessional. There are lines, and they obey them. Otherwise they are gone quick.
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Old 02-08-2008   #20
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I've stayed out of this till now, cos, like the Middle East Forum, I have problems being objective... but what they hey....

IMO.
1. Unless it is for the spiritual sustenance of your own men, Padres should be kept as far away from an enemy of a different religion as possible.

2. The presence of religious personnel only rarely, have the potential to calm things. They need to be used with extreme caution. Try deploying a Rabbi to a future or past war-torn Croatia and see how far that gets you. I suspect the utility of this idea is very Christian-centric.

3. If religion is a factor in the conflict, then you will find extremists in the forefront. Historically religion only creates atrocity and blood shed. Nearly all peace making is done by secular and thus generally rational people.

Sorry to swim against the flow folks, but this seems like one of those good ideas that can only make things more complicated. Stick to the military mission. Protect the people. Kill the enemy.
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