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NSS puts its faith in Forces

04 July 2014

ministry of defence

Guard of Honour: a full-sized copy on vellum of the Codex Amiatinus, the oldest existing single-volume Bible, which is currently on display at Bede's World in Jarrow, received military protection (above) when it was taken to St Paul's, Jarrow, for a service to welcome the new Mayor of South Tyneside. The eighth-century original was made by monks in Wearmouth-Jarrow under the direction of Abbot Ceolfrith, for the Pope at that period. Housed in Florence, it has been lent for display abroad for the first time

Guard of Honour: a full-sized copy on vellum of the Codex Amiatinus, the oldest existing single-volume Bible, which is currently on display at Bede'...

CHRISTIANS could become a minority in the armed forces in the UK within the next 20 years, an analysis of Ministry of Defence (MoD) statistics suggests.

The number of service personnel declaring themselves to be Christians fell by three per cent in 18 months, while the number describing themselves as secular, or of no religion, rose by almost nine per cent. If that trend remains constant, the non-religious will outnumber Christians by 2032.

The figures were produced by the National Secular Society, which compared a series of MoD surveys of 180,000 service personnel between April 2012 and October 2013.

Nevertheless, the figures, which were released last month under the Freedom of Information Act, show that a religious affiliation of some kind is still more prevalent in the military than it is society at large.

In the 2012 inquiry, almost 83 per cent called themselves Christians, compared with 59 per cent of the general population who had called themselves Christian in the 2011 census. By October 2013, however, the proportion of service personnel regarding themselves as Christians had fallen to 80 per cent.

Within the three services, soldiers are the most likely to be Christians. About 86 per cent class themselves as Christian, compared with 79 per cent in the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force, the April 2012 figures show.

The figures, released on the government website, were analysed by the National Secular Society, whose president, Terry Sanderson, said that the rate of decline in Christian affiliation in the services, and the increase in non-religious affiliation, could no longer be ignored. "I call for an urgent, unvarnished re-examina-tion of the appropriateness of the pervasive religious ethos in the armed forces," he said.

"It is time to consider how the non-religious can be better catered for; for example, in the provision of counselling services outside the chain of command, and in ceremonies for all troops which are currently conducted as purely religious ceremonies."

The survey also revealed that 80 service personnel were Jewish, 130 were Sikhs, and 650 were Muslims.

An MoD spokeswoman said: "We want to create a workforce that is drawn from the breadth of the society we defend, and that gains strength from that society's range of knowledge, experience, and talent.

"We recognise that religion is a personal matter, and give those who wish to do so the opportunity to practise their religious observances, provided their practice does not conflict with the services' core values and standards."

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