Religious leaders meet to discuss soldiers' needs
March 4, 2013
DOHA, Qatar - "The only way to really take care of soldiers' spiritual needs is to be available to them whenever they need you, wherever they are," said chaplain Col. Jonathan C. Gibbs, who was commissioned into the U.S. Army in 1987 after five years of being a civilian pastor. "You have to go where they go. As a civilian pastor, you can't do that. Only chaplains can."
As the Army Central Command, Command Chaplain Gibbs visited Camp As Sayliyah in hopes of engaging local religious leaders so that he could better understand how things worked in the host nation.
"One of my goals as the U.S. Army Central Command, command chaplain is to develop and foster good relationships with military and civilian religious leaders of our host and partner nations in the ARCENT area of responsibility," Gibbs said.
"I think most soldiers here are aware of how much religious belief and practice influence the operational environment in our region," he said, who became a chaplain in order to aid the religious needs for soldiers and their families because of their unique challenges they face. "Engaging with military and civilian clergy is one of the ways that we as chaplains support the commander's campaign plan objectives. I have actively pursued these types of engagements since I came to ARCENT just over a year ago. The idea to meet with representatives of the Qatari Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs is part of this overall approach to developing relationships with religious leaders in the region."
To Gibbs, meeting with the Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs was important for a number of reasons.
"First, the meeting gave us an opportunity to express our interest in maintaining cordial relations with religious leaders in one of our partner nations," said Gibbs. "I see this as a simple application of our Army value of respect. We can contribute to good relations with our host nation when we respect their religious beliefs and mores."
"Secondly, the meeting allowed us to determine how the Qatari military provides for the religious needs of its service personnel," he continued. "Some of our partner nations have uniformed military clergy and we have military to military relationships with them for training and coordination. With other nations, we are in a learning mode finding out about their military religious support capabilities. This was the case with Qatar."
Furthermore, Gibbs understands the importance of creating a relationship with a host nation's religious leaders.
"The Qatari's do not have uniformed military clergy," Gibbs said. "But provide for the religious needs of their military through the Ministry for Endowments. The meeting was helpful in bettering our understanding of how their support system works"
In the end, Gibbs gained a better understanding of how the host nation military aids its soldiers' religious needs.