Thursday, May 10, 2007

Perspective: One Flag, Many Faiths

U.S. Army Chaplain (Col.) Bonnie Koppell, a rabbi with the Army Reserves, volunteered to travel from Fort Bliss, Texas, to Iraq to share the Passover holiday with other Jewish service members April 23 at Camp Victory, Iraq

Army Chaplain Carlos C. Huerta had been a rabbi for 20 years, but when it came time to comfort a dying Iraqi boy in a field hospital in Mosul, he did what he thought an imam might do. Huerta, who was on his second tour in Iraq in 2005, clutched the boy's hand—and recited passages from the Qur'an. "To do this job right, I learned suras [chapters] from the Qur'an, I learned to say the Lord's Prayer, I learned to say Hail Marys," he tells NEWSWEEK. "Soldiers who are dying deserve to get their last comfort."

Most chaplains in the military are Christian, from nearly all denominations. But a few dozen are from other faiths, including about 30 Jews and 10 Muslims. They spend some of their time tending to the special needs of their own flock, leading holiday services, for example, and seeing that dietary restrictions are accommodated (about 4,000 of the 1.4 million active-duty troops identify themselves as Jews, while Muslims number about 3,400, according to the Pentagon).

Read the rest at Newsweek