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24 September 2014

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Royal Signals
Royal Signals

Faith in the Forces

By Kim Townsend
Ninety per cent of men and women serving in the armed forces declare themselves as having a faith. But how do they balance their beliefs with their work?

Going to war can test a person to their limits. Being put into hostile situations, working under immense pressure, and having to witness death and destruction on a regular basis is all part of the job - not to mention having to consider the threat to your own life. I asked people with faith how they cope in this environment.

From Falklands to Buddhism

British troops leave for the Falklands in 1982
British troops leave for the Falklands

As you can imagine it must be very difficult to return to normal life after living and working in a war zone. Combat Stress in Shropshire is a charity that helps ex-military men and women recover from the psychiatric problems associated with going to war. There, Gus Hales is being treated for post traumatic stress disorder. He fought in the Falklands war, and says that when the pressure was at its height he had a spiritual awakening. He has now converted to Buddhism - this is his story.

audio From Falklands to Buddhism >
audio Gus Hales reads his poem >
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Christian pilots

Dave Honour
Dave Honour

Simon Collins, Richard Lord and Dave Honour work at RAF Shawbury and RAF Cosford airbases. They're all Christians and have different stories about how God has helped them through tough times in their careers.

audio Dealing with conflict as a Christian >
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Muslims in the forces

"I went there [Afghanistan] as an individual who saw problems there and I wanted to do my part."
Zeeshan Hashmi on why he joined-up

How do you contribute to British society? Would you say that you are loyal to your country? Perhaps you have never been asked such a question - but many British Muslims believe their loyalty is always under question.

Jabron Hashmi, was the first British Muslim soldier to be killed in the 'war on terror' while serving in Afghanistan. He was born in Pakistan, but proud to serve for his adopted country, the United Kingdom. His death sparked a huge media debate - I spoke to his brother Zeeshan about how the argument has developed.

audio Serving your country as a Muslim >
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Serving as a Sikh

Ground crew at RAF Cosford
Ground crew at RAF Cosford

Sikhs have a long history of going to war. Their faith requires them to take military action in defence of the oppressed - but it must be as a last resort. This is why many Sikhs wear the kirpan - a ceremonial sword. It is a symbol of their duty to fight against injustice and to defend the good and the weak. I spoke to Sikhs based at Copthorne barracks in Shrewsbury.

audio Serving as a Sikh >
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Teaching the morality of war

Lesson at RAF Cosford
Discussing beliefs and values

Going to war involves making countless moral and ethical decisions - that's as well as having to deal with the death of colleagues and the threat to your own life. The Defence College of Aeronautical Engineering at Cosford runs a course for its new recruits on beliefs and values. It's run by their chaplain, Leigh Spicer, and prepares them for decisions and situations they might have to go through in their future career. I went along to one of their sessions.

audio Teaching the morality of war >
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What do you think about prayer? Is it part of your daily life? Or perhaps you have never prayed. Well a Christian pilot at RAF Shawbury says prayer is a real lifeline for him. When he first joined the military the Armed Forces Christian Union offered to link him up with a prayer partner. She has prayed for him for his entire career - and will continue to pray for him until he leaves the Royal Air Force.

audio The power of prayer >
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last updated: 14/06/07
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BBC Religion
Diane Louise Jordan


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