Soldier, Former Muslim, Converts to Catholicism in Iraq

A New York paper covers the story of First Lt. Marjana Mair Bidwell [updated link], a US Army intelligence officer and wife of another Army officer.  She “worshipped as a Muslim for 18 years,” but converted to Christianity while in college–which was the US Military Academy at West Point.

When I left Islam during college, I considered myself to have a Christian mindset because I related to a lot of the teachings. I was never baptized, though I did attend church out of curiosity.

Apparently, she began learning about Catholicism because her husband is Catholic.

I did not start with the intent of converting to Catholicism. It was just to learn more about my husband’s religion. I didn’t choose Catholicism, it chose me. Halfway through the classes, I realized that the Catholic Church is very straightforward and that there’s something very moving about the Eucharist. That was the turning point for me.

The classes to which she is referring are the religious education classes taught by the Chaplain, Maj Tyson Wood, while she was in Iraq.  According to the article, she was one of seven Soldiers who “took their First Communion,” becoming a Catholic, while in Iraq.

Though some military Christians have been criticized for publicly speaking tenets of the faith to willing listeners, as this new Catholic soldier demonstrates, any military member has the religious freedom to choose their religion at their whim.  This is true even for those in combat areas, and even though General Order Number One “prohibits proselytizing,” which obviously someone has to do in order for a person to convert from one belief system to another.

Bidwell said she

felt there needed to be a deep connection in whatever faith [she] decided to personally choose once [she] was no longer practicing Islam.

Both at West Point and in Iraq, the US military didn’t force religion on her, but it provided her the opportunities to, in her words, “explore other religions and eventually find one that best suited [her].”  Regardless of a person’s beliefs, an American citizen who serves in the US military is still provided the opportunity to exercise their religious freedoms, whether their personal desire is to grow stronger in their chosen faith or find a new one.