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Military chaplaincy

The presence of religion within the military has historically been regulated by a law which existed until the separation between church and state in the year 2000. It marked the close connection between the Armed Forces and the Church of Sweden. After the separation between Church and state, the awareness of issues of ethnic and religious diversity and equality increased. There is currently no law regulating the presence of religious denominations in the Armed Forces, and official documents stress principles of equal treatment regardless of ethnic belonging, religion or other beliefs, and respect for diversity. A special document on policy concerning freedom to and from religion was written and adopted in 2001. This document is now under revision in close contact with representatives of different faith communities. In 2009, a “Steering-Document for Equality 2009-2011” clarifying the official policy by referring to the Swedish discrimination law as the foundation was adopted by the Armed Forces (SFS 2008:567). The steering document state that the unit officers should establish contact with representatives of the confessions that are represented at the unit. When needed, a confessionnally neutral room should be provided for prayer to all, regardless of religion. Alternative protein-rich food should always be offered when required according to the beliefs of the conscripts. It is also stressed that it is an objective to increase consciousness among the Armed Forces personnel about their own attitudes and values in relation to ethnical and religious diversity, any structural hinder to the achievement of ethnic and religious diversity should be eliminated. This means e.g. flexibility within all areas such as permitting time off, food provision, prayer and religious rites, personal integrity and clothing.
However, even if respect for religious diversity is stressed, the situation today is an almost total dominance of the presence of the Church of Sweden within the military system when it comes to pastoral care, even after the separation between the Church and the state. According to the Swedish armed forces website, the Church of Sweden has offered its resources to the Swedish Armed Forces, concerning pastoral counselling (Swedish Armed Forces website 2011-09-01). The task in military pastoral care is described as listening and supporting those preparing for or acting in very difficult situations, and contributing to reflection on ethical issues which often can be ambiguous.
The military pastoral care has an interreligious perspective, and takes into account different religious confessions. The chaplains represent their respective faith community, but function as mediators to other confessions. The organisation of the military pastoral care counts altogether 138 positions spread out in different parts of the Armed Forces. Organisationally military pastoral care is an integrated part of the military organisation but the personnel is employed by their respective faith community, except for two positions at the Swedish Armed Forces headquarter and eight positions in the Armed Forces international operations.
The two positions at headquarter are the “Field-Dean” (Sw: Fältprost) who is responsible for the national organizing of the military pastoral care, and the “Staff-Pastor” (Sw: Stabspastor) who is responsible for pastoral care of the personnel of the headquarter and support the Field-Dean in the national function. The Field-Dean is financed 75% by the Church of Sweden and 25% by the Armed Forces and the Staff-Pastor is financed 100% by the Armed Forces.
Presently (2011), there are Swedish international military operations in Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Somalia, with one pastor attached to each operation. Plus there are four pastors serving the Swedish part of the Nordic Battle Group.
Altogether, 28 pastors are working at the military basic training units, 20 pastors are working as field-pastors on a regional county level, 20 pastors are working in the “operation organisation” (insats-organisationen) and 60 pastors are linked to the home defence battalions. Almost all of these pastors, at the local, regional or national level, are working part-time, and almost all of them are employed and paid by the Church of Sweden. Only a few of the pastors linked to the home defence system are employed and financed by other Christian faith communities.

D 21 May 2014    APer Pettersson

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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