Finnish Military Chaplains as Religious Experts in International Operations : Experiences from Lebanon and Afghanistan

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Title: Finnish Military Chaplains as Religious Experts in International Operations : Experiences from Lebanon and Afghanistan
Author: Pylvänäinen, Jaakko
Other contributor: Helsingin yliopisto, Teologinen tiedekunta
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Theology
Helsingfors universitet, Teologiska fakulteten
Publisher: Helsingin yliopisto
Date: 2019
Language: eng
Thesis level: master's thesis
Discipline: Uskontotiede
Study of Religions
Abstract: This study set out to examine and analyse Finnish military chaplains’ and commanders’ conceptions and experiences concerning the utilisation of Finnish military chaplains as religious experts – i.e. advising personnel on religion and culture and engaging local religious leaders and communities – in international military operations, with the focus on deployments to Lebanon and Afghanistan from 2010 to 2018. Simultaneously the study intended to contribute to the broader discussion on religious approaches and actors in conflict resolution, especially in the framework of comprehensive crisis management (CCM). This was done by conducting a qualitative content analysis on ten semi-structured interviews. The interviews were studied through a framework of religious approaches to conflict resolution, particularly the concepts of Religious Area Analysis (RAA) and Religious Leader Engagement (RLE) by Dr. Steve K. Moore and Religious Advicement (RA) and Religious Leader Engagement/Religious Leader Liaison (RLL) by Dr. Eric Patterson. It was found that Finnish military chaplains’ RAA/RA and RLE/RLL endeavours in the two countries have been similar to their international counterparts’ contributions in various operational environments, with the exception of no known successes of mediation, facilitation, or reconciliation between estranged local religious actors or communities – only some attempts in Lebanon. Although in the interviewees’ cases RAA/RA and RLE/RLL efforts seem to have been limited mainly by external factors such as the level of willingness of locals, the security situation at hand, and the mandate and nature of each operation, the effect of individual and organisational issues was evident: to some extent, lack of full awareness and vision, insufficient policy and doctrine, limited training and instructions, inadequate planning and preparations, non-existent organisational frameworks, short rotations, and biased attitudes of personnel all have influenced Finnish chaplains’ chances to serve their contingents in terms of local religious conditions and actors. In other words, these activities have not been conducted in a fully organised manner. The irregular state of RAA/RA and RLE/RLL in the Finnish Defence Forces has implications to the comprehensiveness of the organisation’s conflict resolution efforts: if relevant expertise is not systematically used, opportunities will likely be missed and unnecessary mistakes made. Moreover, in light of theoretical understanding it may be stated that without a broader vision, longer-term planning, and increased commitment with respect to the approaches it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to connect the Finnish Defence Forces’ international operations to any peacebuilding initiatives through local religious and traditional leaders – a strategy which has proven to be highly useful for Finnish peace mediation efforts.
Subject: Military chaplains
religious leaders
conflict resolution
crisis management
international operations

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