Episcopal Church to minister to Iraq war veterans

by
27 March 2008

by Pat Ashworth

Rousing: Major Larry Holland of the US Army, Chaplain to the Third Armoured Cavalry Regiment, sings with the choir at an Easter sunrise service in Mosul, Iraq, on Sunday AP

Rousing: Major Larry Holland of the US Army, Chaplain to the Third Armoured Cavalry Regiment, sings with the choir at an Easter sunrise service in Mos...

AMERICAN soldiers are facing unique demands put on them by the pace and number of deployments to Iraq, US Episcopalian chaplains have suggested.

There are currently 160,000 US troops in Iraq. The latest casualty figures, reported on Monday, show that at least 4000 US soldiers have been killed in the conflict. Associated Press reports also say that 29,395 US service members have been wounded in hostile action; 224,000 have applied for disability benefits because of health issues; and 260,000 have been treated at veterans’ medical facilities.

Improved battlefield medicine has helped many soldiers survive attacks that would previously have killed them. But they have been left with multiple serious injuries, including severe brain trauma.

The Bishop Suffragan for Chaplaincies, the Rt Revd George Packard, told the Episcopal News Service that, with sometimes as little as nine months between tours of duty, active-duty military chaplains were seeing more and more soldiers “ragged, depleted, and fatigued to the point of not functioning”.

Episcopalian clergy and congregations are being trained to minister to soldiers’ families through the chaplaincies’ office’s Home Support Team (HOST) programme, which has consistently called for the prompt withdrawal of United States troops.

Episcopalian clergy and congregations are being trained to minister to soldiers’ families through the chaplaincies’ office’s Home Support Team (HOST) programme, which has consistently called for the prompt withdrawal of United States troops.

In a war that has cost the US $500 billion so far, interest payments on loans are likely to add another $615 billion. The future costs of health care for Iraq war veterans are estimated to be $590 billion. A new study of the war’s long-term costs, published last week, suggests a figure of $3 trillion.

The Iraqi government says 12,000 members of its security forces have been killed. A study it carried out in combination with the World Health Organisation in January suggested that between 104,000 and 223,000 Iraqis had died violently since the war started, while the independent Iraq Body Count, based solely on media reports, reports the number of deaths up until March 2008 as 90,000.

The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the US, Dr Katharine Jefferts Schori, spent Easter on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, at the invitation of the Bishop in Jerusalem, the Rt Revd Suheil Dawani. She said on her return: “I join many in this Church who continue to work and pray for an end to the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. We pray for our soldiers and their families, for the people of both countries, and for the refugees searching for shelter from the violence surrounding them.

“I have spent this week in the land we call holy, and been reminded in countless ways that achieving a two-state solution for Palestinians and Israelis is essential for the future stability of the Middle East and Afghanistan. We seek a society of peace with justice, for all peoples of the world. None of us will enjoy security until all do.”

The French government is to grant asylum to 500 Iraqi Christians, after a visit to the Christian community by Bishop Marc Stenger, president of Pax Christi France. Half of the 700,000-strong community was already fleeing, and the situation had worsened since the murder of Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho, the Bishop said. He was answering criticism from aid agencies and others that the move could be viewed as discriminating against Muslims.

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