U.S. troop conversion allegations diplomatic minefield

May 4, 2009

U.S. President Barack Obama may face a new minefield on the battlefields of Afghanistan — one that combines a potent mix of religion and culture.

Explosive allegations have emerged that U.S. soldiers have been attempting to convert Afghanis to Christianity, a scenario sure to stir passions and even anger in the overwhelming Islamic country. You can see our story on the issue here by my colleague Peter Graff in Kabul.

USA-OBAMA/

The U.S. military denied Monday it has allowed soldiers to try to convert Afghans to Christianity, after a television network showed pictures of soldiers with bibles translated into local languages.

Qatar-based Al Jazeera television showed footage of a church service at Bagram, the main U.S. base north of the Afghan capital Kabul, in which soldiers had a stack of Bibles in the local languages, Pashtu and Dari.

A military chaplain was shown delivering a sermon to other soldiers, saying: “The special forces guys — they hunt men basically. We do the same things as Christians, we hunt people for Jesus. We do, we hunt them down.”

Critics have long contended that parts of the U.S. military have been unduly influenced by a powerful evangelical Christian wing which has pressured men and women in uniform to convert or conform.

Many U.S. military events often feature public prayers which some also say blur the line they say should be drawn between church and state. We have blogged on this issue before.

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation has for years tried to raise public awareness about this issue and has in the past accused the military of sanctioning missionary activity in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Headed by former U.S. air force judge advocate Mikey Weinstein, it said on Monday that: “His (Weinstein’s) calls for action have been met with a full assault of denials, baseless and anti-Semitic accusations, and most recently imprecatory prayers against him and his family. But now there is VIDEO PROOF that Mikey has been right all along.”

The U.S. military has said that the comments from the sermon shown in the video were taken out of context and that it firmly prohibits soldiers from proseltyzing while on duty.

Whether this is true or not, there is no question that at least some damage has been done.

Here’s the Al Jazeera video:

(Photo: U.S. Marines bow their heads in prayer before the arrival of President Barack Obama at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, February 27, 2009. REUTERS/Jim Young (UNITED STATES))

9 comments

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I congratulate those evangelical soldiers who converts muslims to Christianity without using violence. The best weapon we have to counter terrorism and talibanization is conversion to Christ. Any person has the right to enter the fold of Christ.While critics says that conversion of Muslims to Christianity is offensive, but if this is the only way to save people from terrorism, violence and other inhumane acts such that even the terrorists themselves will experience the same conversion and will be enlightened of what a God believer should be, then so be it. There is less bloodshed and violence. After all, firearms is not the solution to these problems but love. Change their attitude from hate to love and terrorism will cease. I hope, the Catholic soldiers will do the same thing, to convert them to Christ and be a contributor in building the civilization of Love.

Posted by Daniel Rosaupan | Report as abusive

daniel rosaupan: well said, brother. it amazes me how pc it has become to call islam a “religion of peace” when, as mentioned above & echoed in hurriyet english edition, that islam is enforced with the edge of the sword, which is proof positive that it is just the opposite. those us soldiers are there to serve as apostles of democracy, yet our governemtn forgets that such democracy is a product of christian civilisation – and one cannot have it both ways

Posted by jd | Report as abusive

jd and Daniel Rosaupan: congratulating those soldiers which are violating the law IS talking against democracy.
Democracy doesn’t need religion. Religion tolerance needs democracy.

Posted by ZzZ | Report as abusive

[...] US Troop Conversion Allegations Diplomatic Minefield (Ed Stoddard/FaithWorldReuters; May [...]

I respect your opinion ZzZ. But I still want to hear substantial arguments from you. Not just rhetorics.

Posted by Daniel Rosaupan | Report as abusive

So, the occupation of Afghanistan proves to be a holy war, a christian jihad. To export democracy it’s necessary to own democracy. Is that ?

Posted by MicheleB. | Report as abusive

There is need of much meekness and care in reproving those who deserve reproof.

“The best weapon we have to counter terrorism and talibanization is conversion to Christ.”

The best weapon we have to counter all religion-related wars and crimes is the removal of religion as an excuse for irrational and violent behaviour

I can see nothing wrong with soldiers off duty trying to proselytize people to the religion the soldeiers themselves believe in.
It is their right – and perhaps their religious duty!
While on duty they should do their duty to the best of their ability, and should spend no time on anything else.
Rabbi Julius Hollander

Posted by Julius Hollander | Report as abusive

“I congratulate those evangelical soldiers who converts muslims to Christianity without using violence.”

Hahaha. SOLDIERS carry guns, you dolt.

Posted by pingpong | Report as abusive

[...] Some US soldiers have been accused of trying to convert Afghans to Christianity. [...]