The CAF introduces first-ever humanist chaplain
June 13, 2022 - Defence Stories
Captain Marie-Claire Khadij is the CAF’s first ever humanist chaplain.
Photo by Cpl Sébastien Lévesque
The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) has a new kind of chaplain. On May 18, 2022, Captain Marie-Claire Khadij became the CAF’s first-ever humanist chaplain.
Humanism is a worldview rooted in reason and science, human rights, compassion and social responsibility. Humanism says that human beings have the right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to their own lives.
Captain Khadij – currently posted with the Canadian Army’s 2nd Canadian Division at CFB Valcartier, Que. – entered the CAF as a chaplain in 2017, initially representing the Roman Catholic faith tradition. Over time, she found that humanism is more aligned with her values. She views spirituality as a search for meaning in life, which some do through religion while others, like herself, seek meaning through humanist values or secular ethics.
The humanist’s approach to spirituality is consistent with the vision held by the CAF's Royal Canadian Chaplain Service (RCChS); it is a set of core values and beliefs that colour our view of the world, our understanding of the people around us, the events that occur, and how that influences our daily actions.
The addition of a humanist chaplain – with more expected in the future – provides another option for the moral and spiritual support of CAF members. Captain Khadij feels many CAF members will welcome the opportunity to speak to a humanist chaplain with no link to a particular religion.
"Relatively few members come to see chaplains for religious matters," says Captain Khadij. "The majority of members come simply to speak with us and get support. Most members know that the religious or spiritual tradition of the chaplain does not change the kind of service they receive. Regardless of the chaplain, each member is welcomed, listened to and supported on their journey. And if they have specific faith questions, they can be referred to a chaplain of that specific tradition."
While the addition of a humanist chaplain is new for the CAF, it's not out of the ordinary for an existing chaplain to transition between religious or spiritual categories.
"Each year, there are a few faith or spiritual tradition changes within the Royal Canadian Chaplain Service (RCChS)," says Lieutenant-Colonel Jean-François Noël, acting director of recruiting and policies for the RCChS.
Humanist Canada has been actively engaged in establishing a system of accreditation for those who wish to become humanist chaplains. The Interfaith Committee on Canadian Military Chaplaincy (ICCMC) and the Office of the Chaplain General worked with Humanist Canada to enable and facilitate Captain Khadij's recognition as a humanist chaplain, and is working with the organization to enable the future enrolment of more humanist chaplains.
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