Islamic conquest of prison chaplaincy gives pastoral care the death sentence

Feb 8, 2018 by

by Jules Gomes, The Conservative Woman:

‘Oh, East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet.’ We can only guess what Rudyard Kipling might have said had he been served a dish where East and West have met. I’m thinking of Britain’s national dish – chicken tikka masala. And yet in many aspects Kipling was right. Take music, for instance.

Western music is polyphonic. Notes when sounded together form chords. Indian music is monophonic. A note exists in isolation. It cannot live in harmony with other notes. Indian music can conceive only of soloists, not an orchestra.

Equally, Eastern religions have no model of chaplaincy, particularly as it is understood and practised in Western prisons, universities, hospitals, schools and the armed forces. Chaplaincy is a distinctively Christian institution having its roots in the Christian understanding of a religious leader as pastor or shepherd.

I served as Chaplain to the Oakington Detention Centre while a doctoral student at Cambridge University. Later, I served as Co-ordinating Chaplain to Greenwich University, working with five chaplains, including a Roman Catholic and a Free Church chaplain. We operated in tandem with professional counsellors who were either agnostic or atheist. I strongly resisted the pressure to turn my department into a ‘multifaith’ chaplaincy.

Multifaith chaplaincy is a pious fiction. It forces other religions to accept pastoral care as the job description of their clergy. The job of a Hindu poojari is to conduct ceremonies. A Muslim imam leads prayer. Any Muslim well versed in the Koran can perform this role. The ulema are scholars; mullahs are mosque leaders. No Muslim, Sikh or Buddhist looks to his or her religious leader for pastoral care.

My university stressed that chaplains were to play a pastoral, not religious, role. Chaplains do conduct Bible studies and Eucharistic services, but the religious bits are optional. However if the institution expects its chaplains to be pastors, only Christian ministers can effectively offer this service, because only Christian ministers spend years training in pastoral care and are called to this ministry.

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