Muslim priests to give spiritual guidance to servicemen

(RIA Novosti / Mikhail Fomichev)
Muslim muftis will soon be sent to the Russian Army for spiritual guidance of Muslim servicemen, according to Russia’s Supreme Mufti Talgat Tadzhuddin. Currently, only Orthodox priests are present among Army staff.

­In an interview to the Echo of Moscow radio station, the Supreme Mufti said that the Russian Muslim University has launched a special course for priests who will work in the Army.

Soon, around a dozen Muslim priests will start their jobs in various military units. But this is only the beginning as more will follow. The work in the Army requires some special skills so this category of clergy should have specific training, Tadzhuddin explained.

“We think that retired officers could take special-purpose courses in the Russian Muslim University,” he said. “We should send to the Army those people who understand its specifics. At the same time, they should be able to make their spiritual contribution.”

He added that heads of regional spiritual centers have already started attracting people.

Talgat Tadzhuddin also said that those priests and their activities will be controlled by Russia’s Interconfessional Council.

Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, head of the Russian Orthodox Church’s public relations, said on Wednesday that it is a common world practice to send representatives of major religions to the Army. He observed that the Church is now renewing the practice of assigning staff spiritual counselors to the military. He added that around 1,000 Orthodox priests have been working in the Army as volunteers.

Deputy head of the State Duma Committee for Defense Yury Savenko told Echo of Moscow that representatives of the main confessions in the Army can reduce the number of interethnic and inter-religious conflicts.

Islam is the second largest religion after Orthodox Christianity in Russia, with around 8 million believers. Most of them are concentrated in the North Caucasus, the republics of Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Western Siberia and also Moscow.