Strengthening the alliance through religious accommodation

  • Published
  • By By Ch., Lt. Col. Paul Castillo
  • 39th Air Base Wing Chaplain
Airmen and military dependents all over the world and from many faith backgrounds regularly look to their base chapel as a place to meet their spiritual and religious needs. The Air Force Chaplain Corps offers religious accommodation to any individuals or religious groups that seek representation. As a result, chapel communities are excellent examples of diversity.

While there are likely Air Force personnel at every base who identify with the Muslim faith, we have the opportunity here in Turkey to bump into more than just fellow Airmen and their dependents - we live in a country where Islam is the predominant religion.

Because of that, there are a few things we need to keep in mind in order to best support and accommodate our freedom of religion both here and in the United States.

Muslims throughout the world will celebrate the holy month of Ramazan (The Month of Fasting) starting June 28. This is also known as Ramadan in the United States. Military members and their dependents have experienced the hospitality, support, and friendship from members of our host nation, so acquiring a basic understanding of religious customs and practices demonstrate respect and thoughtfulness for our fellow Airmen and Turkish allies.

Ramazan is faithfully observed by millions throughout the world and is celebrated in the ninth month of the lunar calendar. During this 30-day period the holy book of Islam was revealed to the prophet Mohammed. The Qur'an teaches that all those who are not sick or traveling are to fast during this period. However, pregnant women, children, and soldiers engaged in combat operations are exempted from fasting. During Ramazan, Muslims fast each day for approximately one-and-a-half  hours before sunrise to sunset. Participants recognize the fast as all-encompassing, literally "letting nothing pass the lips," including food, drink, and smoke.

The spiritual discipline of fasting is practiced by many religions to enhance the spiritual life. Muslims use the holy month of fasting to reflect, pray and draw near to God.

Ramazan teaches and encourages Muslims to exercise virtues like charity, compassion, forgiveness and humility. Although Ramazan is a time of reflection and prayer, it is also a time of celebration. After sunset, with the fourth call to prayer, the fast is broken with a ceremonial meal called "Iftar."

In order to help strengthen the alliance with our Turkish neighbors, there are some things we need to be mindful of during Ramazan. A practical demonstration of respect during Ramazan would be to refrain from eating, drinking, and smoking in public during daylight hours. Some accommodations may need to be made for Muslim military members to allow them to observe these religious requirements. Muslims may request release each day at least one-and-a-half hours before sunset in order to make the necessary preparations for the observance of Iftar and for the sunset prayer.

If you have any questions about Ramazan or religious accommodations feel free to contact the chapel at 676-6441.