By George MarkfelderJune 8, 2012
"Faith Based Planet: Religion in Diplomacy and Diverse Contexts" was the theme at the Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region's 6th Annual Interagency Chaplain Conference held at Fort McNair May 30.
Scores of military, government agency and non-governmental chaplains from the NCR participated and discussed the intricate web of faith and politics in the modern world.
"The topics you discuss today are important to those present at this conference, but they are also relevant to all law enforcement, federal agents, first responders and military members whether they are deployed overseas or stationed stateside," said Maj. Gen. Michael S. Linnington, JFHQ-NCR and Military District of Washington commanding general, during his opening remarks.
"America's religious diversity isn't an idea just mentioned in our laws and mission statements, it is a way of life for Americans, and it is this openness to all faiths that produces much of our cultural influence around the world. I have seen it firsthand on my deployments overseas."
JFHQ-NCR coordinates annual crisis response training for National Capital Region, Department of Defense and public safety chaplains in order to refine operating procedures, identify problems, and clarify inter-agency roles and functions. Conference speakers and panel discussions in the morning focused on a global context to ministry, and later in the afternoon, discussions drilled down to specific ministries and how they operate.
"It is hard for us Americans to understand that if religion has been a part of the problem, then it necessarily must be a part of the solution," said guest speaker Chris Seiple, president of the Institute for Global Engagement. "After all, we have been taught since childhood not to talk about two things in polite company: religion and politics. But now our national security depends on understanding their intersection."
Seiple's organization is a research, education, and diplomatic institution that attempts to build sustainable religious freedom worldwide through local partnerships. According to Seiple, "the essence of American strength is a humble power rooted in a Christian faith so confident that it dare not impose, only propose."
Other speakers at the conference included: Abubaker Ahmed Al Shingieti, vice president for Islamic Programs, International Center for Religion and Diplomacy; Barry Black, chaplain with the U.S. Senate; Valerie Carter, associate pastor for Global and Local Ministries, BonAir Baptist Church; cantor Michael Shochet, chairman of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments Public Safety Chaplains Subcommittee; and Chap. (Capt.) Heather Borshof, from Fort Belvoir, Va.
"I believe our religious diversity as a nation and as a military organization is one of our greatest force-multipliers affecting today's battlefields," said Linnington. "How we understand and participate in this global interchange of religious diversity and communication is very much a part of our overall mission success."