US Christian Chaplain Advises Afghan Military Religious Leaders

An interesting US Air Force story describes how US Air Force Chaplain (Maj) Chris Conklin is acting as an advisor to the Afghan Air Force Religious and Cultural Affairs office, a rough equivalent to their chaplaincy:

Chaplain (Maj.) Chris Conklin is the first air advisor charged with assisting the Afghan military’s religious and cultural affairs program with the mission of effective religious care and spiritual readiness for those who defend their nation.

Interestingly, the article makes a point to say their discussions aren’t religious in nature:

“My goal is not to teach them how to be good Islamic scholars,” Conklin said. “In the same way we train our Air Force chaplains. We are not instructing on how to lead worship services, but we assist in discussions of how to best integrate (religious support) into the military through manning, force structure and developmental changes.”

While an interesting topic, it’s worth pausing to remember the purpose of US military chaplains.

By law and regulation, US chaplains are religious leaders and military staff officers who provide for the religious needs of troops and advise commanders on religious issues.

Nowhere in that job description does it say “advise another nation on religious integration” — much less the integration of Islam into the military of a country where it is practically illegal to be a non-Muslim.

The justification probably comes from the chaplain’s role as a staff officer, not religious leader, and by extrapolating their role as advisor to their commander to become advisor to the Joint Force Commander and ultimately to the Multi-National Force Commander. The further one gets from Title 10 and DoD instructions, however, the more tenuous the support for a US military chaplain providing “religious program guidance” for another nation’s military.

After all, most sending endorsing agencies who sponsor a Rabbi, Priest, or Pastor into the US military probably expect them to be serving the religious needs of their troops and their units.  It’s unlikely they think they’ll be used to provide programmatic guidance for other nations — particularly other nations where religious liberty is either weak or a farce.

One comment

  • Good points all, but my guess is that the US hopes such engagement with a chaplain who demonstrates how religious liberty works might at least encourage them to consider some approximation of same in their country. Not all that likely to happen in Afghanistan, of course, but this little bit just might help.