Best Defense

The Canadian military’s chief chaplain explains why he visited a mosque

I wondered what the Royal Canadian Chaplain Service could do as a gesture of solidarity for Muslims who had experienced the death of six of their own.

 

Best Defense is on summer hiatus. During this restful spell we offer re-runs from the past 12 months. This item originally ran on March 24. 

By Brigadier-General Guy Chapdelaine
Best Defense guest chaplain

During the terrorist attack at the Grand Mosque in Quebec City on January 29, I was in Portsmouth, England, for the International Military Chief of Chaplains Conference. Several Muslims from the Netherlands, Serbia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina came to express their support to me.

Touched by this gesture, I wondered what the Royal Canadian Chaplain Service could do as a gesture of solidarity for Muslims who had experienced the death of six of their own. I decided to send an appeal to all Canadian military chaplains, encouraging them to make gestures of solidarity — especially to our military members of the Muslim faith.

Not surprisingly, the initiatives were numerous and very diverse. For my part, I went to the Grand Mosque in Quebec City on February 24 to meet with the Muslim community during Friday evening prayers. Surrounded by 17 military chaplains, a Muslim chaplain in training, and a young soldier belonging to the 2nd Battalion, Royal 22e Régiment, I expressed in the name of the Canadian Armed Forces our solidarity at this difficult moment. I was also proud to add that we also had a Muslim woman who was studying to join the Canadian military chaplaincy in the near future. She would become the first Muslim female Canadian military chaplain.

After the ceremony, I had the pleasure of conversing with members of the community. The president confided to me that there were Muslims among them who performed heroic acts on the night of the attack. Young people who, at the risk of their lives, came to the aid of their fellow man.

I came out of this meeting cheered by the generosity that was revealed in the midst of the horror. Thinking about it, many of our military heroes, throughout history, have shown the same courage at peril of their own lives.

Brigadier-General Guy Chapdelaine is the Chaplain General of the Canadian Armed Forces.

 Photo credit: Corporal Éric Girard/Combat Camera, Canadian Armed Forces

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com.

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