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Military Chaplains as Peace Builders: Embracing Indigenous Religions in Stability Operations - Proposal for Expanded Role as Religious Liaisons for Local Cultural Relationships, Promotion of Goodwill

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Religion and culture in general have been long neglected by planners, policy makers, and diplomats. Our experience in Phase IV, or the constructive phase, of Operation Iraqi Freedom has clearly exposed this inattention as a serious flaw in bringing peaceful development to Iraq. These authors suggest that military chaplains can be a part of a better solution. It is not a ca Religion and culture in general have been long neglected by planners, policy makers, and diplomats. Our experience in Phase IV, or the constructive phase, of Operation Iraqi Freedom has clearly exposed this inattention as a serious flaw in bringing peaceful development to Iraq. These authors suggest that military chaplains can be a part of a better solution. It is not a case of trying to proselyte; it is rather one of engaging local religious leaders to facilitate the stabilization process. Currently, US military chaplains not only provide religious and spiritual support to military personnel and their families, but also train to conduct religious area analyses and assessments, primarily for the purpose of advising the commander on indigenous religious culture and practices. The thesis of this paper is to suggest an expanded role as religious liaison, wherein the chaplains would have a direct interface with local religious groups and religious leaders. The chaplains would develop a dialogue, build relationships, promote goodwill, and even help create formal inter-religious councils. The authors recommend changes affecting doctrine, training, and assignments that are necessary to facilitate this expanded role of chaplains. Commanders often have a military lawyer and intelligence officer by their side when addressing operational decisions. Chaplains of the future should be equally important to the commander conducting stability operations. Our leadership must be comfortable in the understanding that an individual does not have to become religious in order to understand religion.


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Religion and culture in general have been long neglected by planners, policy makers, and diplomats. Our experience in Phase IV, or the constructive phase, of Operation Iraqi Freedom has clearly exposed this inattention as a serious flaw in bringing peaceful development to Iraq. These authors suggest that military chaplains can be a part of a better solution. It is not a ca Religion and culture in general have been long neglected by planners, policy makers, and diplomats. Our experience in Phase IV, or the constructive phase, of Operation Iraqi Freedom has clearly exposed this inattention as a serious flaw in bringing peaceful development to Iraq. These authors suggest that military chaplains can be a part of a better solution. It is not a case of trying to proselyte; it is rather one of engaging local religious leaders to facilitate the stabilization process. Currently, US military chaplains not only provide religious and spiritual support to military personnel and their families, but also train to conduct religious area analyses and assessments, primarily for the purpose of advising the commander on indigenous religious culture and practices. The thesis of this paper is to suggest an expanded role as religious liaison, wherein the chaplains would have a direct interface with local religious groups and religious leaders. The chaplains would develop a dialogue, build relationships, promote goodwill, and even help create formal inter-religious councils. The authors recommend changes affecting doctrine, training, and assignments that are necessary to facilitate this expanded role of chaplains. Commanders often have a military lawyer and intelligence officer by their side when addressing operational decisions. Chaplains of the future should be equally important to the commander conducting stability operations. Our leadership must be comfortable in the understanding that an individual does not have to become religious in order to understand religion.

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