US Military Chaplains — Active (18) and National Guard (7) — Partner Nation Chaplains (14), Non-Governmental Organization Leaders (13), Local Clergy (5), Academics (5) and US-SOUTHCOM Command and Staff elements (15) all joined together for 3 days of presentations, professional exchange and collegial dialogue on how “Religion is good for Business,” “How Religion and Politics mix,” and “How best to consider Religion as a factor for analysis, a source of healing, a place of hope and an encourager of reconciliation.”
Keynote speakers, Dr. Brian Grim President of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, and Mr. Knox Thames, Director of Policy and Research at the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), engaged the assembly; challenging assumptions and offering thoughtful perspectives for the future.
Command Chaplain Col. Michael Lembke poses with most of the keynote speakers at the Religion Matters II conference, from left: Brian Grim, president of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation; Archbishop Thomas Wenski; and Imam Asim Hafiz, Islamic religious advisor to Ministry of Defence of the United Kingdom.
Participants enjoyed a ‘cultural day’ in Miami, receiving information from Rabbi Lipskar at the Shul, and Fr. Sosa of St. Joseph’s Parish. The group also received briefings from unit Commanders at Homestead Air Force Reserve Base.
Dr. Grim and Mr. Thames not only gave presentations but they fully participated in discussions during Focus Group Sessions. We were also happy to welcome The Reverend Thomas Wenski, Archbishop of Miami and Imam Asim Hafiz, Islamic religious advisor to the Chief of the Defence Staff, United Kingdom who offered remarks and participated in the symposium.
JFHQs Chaplains from Arkansas, Florida, Wisconsin, Massachusetts and one Assistant from Texas; well supported by Colonel Tom Hanley, National Guard Liaison/ SPP Director for USSC, and Chaplain Peter Lawson of the National Guard Bureau, contributed greatly to the entire symposium and worked toward increased State Partnership Program involvement.
Symposium Mission: Participants (Partner Nation Military Chaplains and Clergy who work with Military) develop a better understanding of how Religion Matters by building networks of religious people, caring for the needs of military members and their families; bringing together different countries for mutual dialogue and action in order to discover commonalities towards a consensus document on religious rights and religious relationships.
Objectives: To gain increased awareness, lessons learned and specific examples of (a) the role of religion in the Soldier’s Life; (b) the role of the Chaplain in the Military Context; and (c) the ability of religion to influence individuals and institutions towards peaceful coexistence.