Sunday, 29 November -0001 18:42

Military Directs Chaplains - No Reference to Christianity in Public Services

Written by Rev. H.A Bergsma
The editor of the Calgary Sun (Canada) remarked in a column recently that in an "unprecedented move, the Canadian military is directing its chaplains to avoid all specific references to Christianity during public services." The policy change, which came from the Chaplain General Commodore, Timothy Maindonald, in Ottawa on July 24, has left Canadian Forces' chaplains in the unique position of being asked not to refer to certain fundamental aspects of their faith, such as the Lord's Prayer or traditional Christian phrases like "Father, Son and the Holy Spirit." "How on earth can a Christian chaplain represent a Muslim cleric?" asked Art Hanger, Canadian Alliance Member of Parliament. "Unless they're going to pray to a generic god, how can they represent other faiths? I don't agree with this new policy at allÉ [I would say] it represents a new low in political correctness," added Hanger recently, as reported in The Kingston Whig-Standard (Canada).

In all fairness to the policy, however, it has reference only to provincial or national public ceremonies. The actual policy reads as follows: "Within the context of voluntary worship, either within a chapel or a field service or on board ship, chaplains are free to lead Christian worship according to their denominational tradition within the established practice of Canadian Forces Roman Catholic or Protestant Chapels. Likewise, in the context of ecumenical or interfaith worship where a number of religious leaders are participating, chaplains may conduct themselves in accordance with their denominational tradition. Within the context of a public ceremony the chaplain is the sole representative of all faith groups. Where various faith groups and a wide range of beliefs are likely to exist, normally prayers should be inclusive in nature, respecting the wide range of faith groups and believers who may be present. The religious celebrant is encouraged to be sensitive in the use of specific sacred faith formulas to allow for greater inclusivity."

Apparently, these guidelines were issued to encourage the military chaplains to be more understanding, especially when praying in a public meeting where people may have been ordered to attend or are there for reasons other than religious ones. Having said that, it is still a sad note that such a policy was issued that requires Christians to be tolerant towards other faiths by leaving out in public ceremonies what is most precious to the Christian faith. I wonder if any Islamic governments would issue such "tolerance policies."

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