Video shows chaplain telling U.S. troops to go out and convert Afghans.
Al Jazeera, the Qatar-based television news outlet, broadcast the footage Monday. It was filmed about a year ago by documentary filmmaker and former U.S. soldier Brian Hughes. The video shows Lieutenant-Colonel Gary Hensley, the chief of the U.S. military chaplains in Afghanistan, instructing soldiers that, as Christians, they have a responsibility "to be witnesses for" Jesus Christ.
"The special forces guys-they hunt men basically. We do the same things as Christians, we hunt people for Jesus. We do, we hunt them down. Get the hound of heaven after them, so we get them into the kingdom. That's what we do, that's our business," Hensley is seen saying in the year-old video.
The U.S. Central Command formally and officially forbids "proselytizing of any religion, faith or practice." Al Jazeera reported that, "The chaplains appear [in the footage] to have found a way around the regulation known as General Order Number One."
"Do we know what it means to proselytize?" Captain Emmit Furner, a military chaplain, is seen asking the group.
"It is General Order Number One," an unidentified soldier replies.
"You can't proselytize but you can give gifts," Watt then is seen saying, referring to gifts of Bibles and other Christian literature.
Soldiers have also been found importing Bibles translated into Pashto and Dari--languages native to Afghanistan. The military suggested the Bibles were brought by soldiers for their own personal use, but Hughes pointed out that soldiers weren't learning native languages by reading translations of the Bible.
Trying to convert Muslims is illegal in Afghanistan and the fact that the video footage is being broadcast on Al Jazeera channel guarantees it will be seen across the Muslim world. Many commentators believe it will feed the perception that the U.S. is engaging in a neo-Crusader war against Islam.
The U.S. military denies the practice is officially sanctioned. Spokesperson Major Jennifer Willis said comments from sermons filmed at Bagram were taken out of context and that the translated Bibles were never distributed to Afghan citizens.
"That specific case involved a soldier who brought in a donation of translated Bibles that were sent to his personal address by his home church. He showed them to the group and the chaplain explained that he cannot distribute them," Willis said. "The translated Bibles were never distributed as far as we know, because the soldier understood that if he distributed them he would be in violation of General Order One, and he would be subject to punishment."
Hughes, however, told Al Jazeera, "[U.S. soldiers] weren't talking about learning how to speak Dari or Pashto by reading the Bible and using that as the tool for language lessons. The only reason they would have these documents there was to distribute them to the Afghan people. And I knew it was wrong, and I knew that filming it, ... documenting it would be important."
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|Title Annotation:||Faith: Religion and the world|
|Publication:||Iran Times International (Washington, DC)|
|Date:||May 8, 2009|
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