Army chaplains want right to carry weapons.

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by Skynet, Nov 20, 2007.

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  1. DAILY MAIL

    Army chaplains want right to carry weapons to protect themselves against the Taliban
    by MATTHEW HICKLEY - More by this author »

    Last updated at 20:28pm on 20th November 2007

    British military chaplains in Afghanistan are urging an historic change in the rules to allow them to carry weapons when out on patrol alongside troops fighting the Taliban, because of the risk of capture.

    For the first time in any theatre of conflict chaplains are no longer considered to be protected by the rules of war, because of the propaganda Taliban extremists would gain from showing "trophy" footage of a captive Christian priest.

    By long tradition, clergy serving in Britain's armed forces have not carried weapons in war-zones, but now some Royal Navy Commando chaplains want to be allowed to carry a side-arm, stating that as a last resort they would rather take their own life than fall into the hands of the Taliban.

    The issue has sparked an intense debate within the chaplain community, where some oppose the move on principle.

    Under the Geneva Convention all military chaplains are 'non-combatants' and are granted certain protections if taken prisoner, but in Afghanistan such rules are irrelevant since the Taliban pay no heed to international law or the Convention.

    UK forces in Afghanistan have already stopped observing one requirement of the Geneva Convention, as for the first time both chaplains and frontline medics have abandoned their traditional Red Cross arm bands when out in the field.

    The assessment by commanders is that far from enjoying any protection, anyone wearing the Red Cross would be at greater risk from the enemy.

    So far the firearms debate only involves Royal Navy Commando chaplains who minister to the Royal Marines, currently fighting and working to build security in southern Afghanistan.

    Commando chaplains routinely visit forward operating bases to conduct services and offer pastoral support, and unlike most of their Army counterparts they also join troops on patrols in order to share and understand their experiences.

    Uniquely among military clergy they have all completed the same training as their "flock" - in this case the gruelling 32-week Commando training course - enabling them to live and work on the frontline without being a burden to the men or their commanders.

    Without Red Cross armbands they are now indistinguishable within a group of Marines, wearing identical uniform, body armour and helmets.

    During training they are taught to handle and fire SA-80 assault rifles and pistols, because as trained first-aiders they are allowed to use a wounded Marine's own weapon to protect him on a battlefield.

    But now some chaplains are pressing for the rules barring them from carrying their own personal weapon to be relaxed - specifically within Afghanistan, because of the nature of the enemy - giving them the discretion to take a sidearm on patrol.

    There are about a dozen chaplains in Afghanistan.

    The Revd Stuart Hallam, (Church of England) Royal Navy Chaplain to 40 Commando, currently serving in Afghanistan, is one of those in favour.

    He told the Mail: "For the first time in any theatre of war we are seen as a legitimate target by the enemy.

    "We are already effectively breaking the Geneva Convention by not wearing red arm bands. Maybe we're passed gentlemen's agreements, and have to re-think the way we go about our ministry in this kind of conflict.

    "The Convention itself doesn't actually prohibit us from carrying a weapon, but long tradition and UK military rules do, and the issue has divided the chaplain community.

    "For Commando chaplains our ethos is that to serve our people we have to be able to go through what they go through, which includes patrolling on the ground.

    "In theory if we're captured in war we are supposed to be allowed to go about our ministry among prisoners. But that's a very long way from the reality in Afghanistan."

    He added: "It's very unlikely we could be captured here, but if we were, the Taliban may well use us for publicity, and then probably execute us - just as they probably would any other coalition serviceman.

    "I don't think I could put my wife through that. I personally would not want to let myself be captured.

    "For that reason I think we should be pragmatic over sidearms. None of us are comfortable with this, and there are those who think it's going too far.

    "But it's a debate which needs resolving, because of the kind of operations the Royal Marines are carrying out and are likely to in the years ahead."

    Monsignor Paul Donovan, (Roman Catholic) Director of the Naval Chaplaincy Service (Operations), said: "The Chaplain on the ground needs to make the judgement whether the Red Cross symbol, which is meant to afford protection under the Geneva Convention, instead stands him in greater danger.

    "Whilst some other nations do arm their chaplains as a matter of course, current British practice is not to."

    Military chaplains - commonly known as Padres - have a proud history of supporting Britain's frontline forces often at great personal risk, and some have been decorated for extreme valour in helping wounded troops under fire.

    In World War Two 134 British and Commonwealth Padres were killed, and chaplains followed the troops ashore on D-Day and jumped with Paratroopers behind enemy
     
  2. I say let them carry, if the enemy are shooting at non combatants now they should be able to bloody defend theirselves.
     
  3. Surely their own belief in God should mean that they do not fear death or torture? After all are they not supposed to believe beyond doubt that they will be saved and that suicide is wrong.

    Psalm 23

    The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.
    He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
    He leadeth me beside the still waters.
    He restoreth my soul:
    He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name' sake.

    Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil: For thou art with me;
    Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.
    Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies
    ;
    Thou annointest my head with oil; My cup runneth over.

    Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
    and I will dwell in the House of the Lord forever.


    I share what they say. I would rather die at my own hands than that of the Taliban. However, as members of the clergy IMHO surely they undermine their own belief by fearing the enemy?

    Not looking for an argument but it just strikes me as odd?
     
  4. Padre's personal choice, but I say arm them!
     
  5. I think they just don't want to end up been paraded on some arabic news network as some kind of trophy.
     
  6. In 1966 I was in hospital whilst serving in Aden. In the next bed was a wounded member of the RNF (Royal Northumberland Fusiliers) - he may have been called Geordie! Anyway one day he was visited by the Bn padre who was an RC. When the padre found I was of the faith we had a really good chat. He mentioned that he had been under fire numerous times whilst visiting his “flock” and, that for self protection, he carried a 9mm Browning.
     
  7. Like the Padres say, at worst they could use it to shoot themselves, at best they are going to use it to defend themselves or wounded, maybe even dead, servicemen and women.

    It's not as if they are going to be knocking on doors and taking names.

    I would personnelly trust a Padre to make his own discision upon whether or not to carry a firearm. And I can think of one at least who detested the idea that the Danish (IIRC) carried.
     
  8. That's all very well and good, but the fact that he's a member of HMF points to him being slightly more... ahem... realistic about these things than your average head-in-the-clouds platitute spouting bullshite merchant.

    Like the feller said - he's not afraid of death, but if he were to die, he'd rather his wife didn't see him beheaded in an orange boiler suit. Which is a sentiment I'm sure we can all understand.
     
  9. I dont think theres anything wrong with this but need to think it through as you dont want untrained nuts out on the street. Any new chaplains out there can only be issued with a 9mm pistol. If theyve been in the Army Chaplain service for over 5 years they can be fammed up on the GPMG. Only a select few of Chaplains in 16 BDE or serving with Commando units can have a 50 Cal. on their pope mobiles.
     
  10. Hmmmm....

    9mm up through the mouth or having ones head hacked off whilst wearing an orange jump suit and video posted on the net for wife and kiddies to see.

    I know which one I'd prefer!
     
  11. Not to sure about this one but I know I wouldn't want my mrs to watch me getting the "chop" on Al jazeera so I can understand where they are coming from.
     
  12. Should be left up to the individual.

    No.9
     
  13. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. They're blatantly flouting international laws, so when we're in the thick of it, why shouldn't we?
     
  14. Two things, firstly I agree that, despite Canon Law, this is a unique situation that merits Padres carrying personal weapons if they see fit.

    Secondly:

    My bold. We as a country complain about the standard of written English yet in a National Newspaper we see this glaring error. Surely this should be either "we're past" or "we've passed" not some unholy alliance of the two.

    Sorry for the OT second point but this sort of thing grips my shiite.

    Tubs
     
  15. Sadly being at war with inhuman scum means that Padre's should be armed if they wish as No9 says it's up to the individual.