US Military in Afghan Missionary Scandal

Kabul, Afganistan - The US military in Afghanistan was embroiled Monday, May 4, in a new scandal showing US soldiers preparing to promulgate Christianity in the conservative Muslim country.

"This is a complete deviation from what they [the US military] are supposed to be doing," former Afghan prime minister Ahmed Shah Ahmedzai told the Doha-based Al-Jazeera television.

"I don't think even the US constitution would allow what they are doing ... it is completely against all regulations."

A footage aired by Al-Jazeera showed a church sermon at the US airbase in Bagram, where soldiers had a stack of bible printed in local Afghan languages.

"The special forces guys - they hunt men basically. We do the same things as Christians, we hunt people for Jesus. We do, we hunt them down," Lieutenant-Colonel Gary Hensley, the chief military chaplain in Afghanistan, tells the soldiers.

He says that soldiers, as followers of Jesus Christ, have a responsibility "to be witnesses for him".

"Get the hound of heaven after them, so we get them into the kingdom. That's what we do, that's our business."

Another footage shows a soldier set to become a military chaplain speaking about bringing bibles for Afghans.

"I also want to praise God because my church collected some money to get bibles for Afghanistan. They came and sent the money out," says the soldier, Sergeant Jon Watt.

The US invaded Afghanistan in 2001 following the 9/11 attacks to topple the ruling Taliban and ally Al-Qaeda.


The US military denied allowing soldiers to proselytize in the conservative Muslim country.

"There is no effort to go out and proselytize to Afghans," US colonel Greg Julian told Al-Jazeera.

"This footage was taken a year ago ... the bibles were taken into custody and not distributed."

This is not the first time the US military involves in proselytizing row.

Last year, a US marine has been suspended for handing out coins promoting Christianity in Iraq.

The proselytizing scandal has sparked calls for a probe into US practices in Afghanistan.

"There must be a serious investigation now that it has come out into the public and [into the] press," Ahmedzai, the former premier, said.

"This is very damaging for diplomatic relations between the two counties ... everyone knows people are very conservative here, very faithful to Islam. They will never accept any other religion."

Sayed Aalam Uddin Asser, of the Islamic Front for Peace and Understanding in Kabul, echoed a similar call.

"It's a national security issue ... our constitution says nothing can take place in Afghanistan against Islam," he said.

"If people come and propaganda other religions which have no followers in Afghanistan [then] it creates problems for the people, for peace, for stability."

Proselytizing, a sensitive issue, is banned in Muslim conservative Afghanistan.

Thousands of Afghans took to the streets in 2006 to protest the release of an Afghan man, who was facing the death penalty for converting to Christianity.