Having ‘faith’ in the Forces: British Army hold interfaith study day
More than 60 soldiers from across Yorkshire and the North East attended an interfaith study day at the Army Foundation College in Harrogate last week, as the importance of religion in the Forces was discussed.
The inclusive event featured talks by faith leaders and soldiers who answered questions on how they practice their faith while serving their country at home and overseas.
There were discussions on Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist and Sikh faiths, Afro-Caribbean culture and the historical contribution of ethnic minorities to the armed forces.
Event organiser, Lieutenant Colonel Mark Hunter, is a community engagement officer with 4th Infantry Brigade, based in Catterick.
He said that the day had also allowed for welfare and recruitment teams from across the British Army to gain a better understanding of how they can engage with different religious communities.
He added: “We are increasing understanding of different faiths across the Army because we would like an Army which is more reflective of society.
“This event is about putting people of different faiths next to one another so they can learn more about each other - at the end of the day all faiths have got a lot in common.”
Dozen different units were represented at the event from across Yorkshire and the North East.
Speakers included Armed Forces Chaplains and serving soldiers from around the country including Craftsman Ranvir Singh, who works with The Queen’s Own Gurkha Logistic Regiment.
Craftsman Singh, from Huddersfield, said: “It’s been really great to have the opportunity to come in and increase the understanding of Sikhism across the brigade.
“I want to show that the British Army is massively compatible with our faith – I’m a father and I am adamant that my son is going to join the armed forces.”
Attendees had the chance to “ask difficult questions in a safe environment,” during the event in the Chaplaincy at the Army Foundation College.
Bombardier Adil Arif, of 3rd Regiment Royal Horse Artillery, based in Newcastle, shared his experience of practicing Islam.
“I’ve done Islamic studies so I’ve got a good knowledge of my faith and I’m comfortable answering questions,” Bdr Arif said.
“A small minority give Muslims a bad name, but the religion itself is similar to Christianity, it’s about showing that we are not that different.”
The event was the first interfaith day the 4th Infantry Brigade have held and, following its success, they now hope to make it a more regular occurrence.
Shahda Khan MBE, Community Cohesion Lead at Middlesbrough Council said: “I’m really pleased to see so many different faiths represented here today.
“It’s been really fascinating listening to the presentations and all the questions that have been asked.”