Christian forces chaplains prepared to minister to dying Muslims

 British Forces chaplains in the Gulf have been issued with Islamic prayer cards so they can administer the last rites and bury Muslims killed in battle, reports The Times. The specially laminated cards have the words of the Shahada (Islamic declaration of faith) which the chaplain will repeat three times: "There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah, Amen - Allah is great." The Rev Squadron Leader Andrew Jones, attached to the British Harrier Force said that in the last Gulf War, the British and American forces chaplains had to bury many Iraqis and were unprepared for this duty. He added that chaplains will also meet Iraqi Christians who have been killed by US and UK forces. "It is part of my job to issue the last rites." he said. "I hope I won't have to use them, but I would be a poor chaplain if I wasn't prepared for all faiths." Bishop James O'Brien, chair of the Catholic Bishops Conference Department for Ecumenism, Interfaith and Justice and Peace, welcomed the move. He told ICN today: "My own view is that if Christian Padres can help Moslem soldiers and civilians to pray to God as best they can I am all in favour. " The Rt Rev Andreas Abouna, who is Bishop to the Chaldean Catholics in England, told ICN: " I hope the chaplains can offer spiritual support to the Iraqis they meet. But we hoped this war would never happen. We hoped these men could all stay home supporting their families instead of fighting in a war." Fr Andreas, who came to England in 1991, after the first Gulf War, said that the Chaldean Catholic seminary in Baghdad has been shut and the 65 seminarians have been sent home to their families. "We are all very worried for them" he said. "It is very dangerous there." Fr Andreas said he has family in Baghdad. "I spoke with my brother and sister this morning. They are very afraid." More than 650 Iraqi Chaldean Catholic families attend Fr Andreas' parish in Laxton Place, NW1. Fr Andreas said: "We are all praying that this war ends quickly. Our services for peace have been packed."

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