n Journal for Contemporary History - An historical perspective on the influence of the military environment on chaplaincy, with special reference to the Namibian War of Independence, 1966-1989

Volume 34, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0258-2422
  • E-ISSN: 2415-0509



Military chaplaincy is a Christian institution that has its roots in a resolution of the Council of Ratisbon in 742 when chaplains were assigned to armies for the first time. Chaplains were, however, forbidden to bear arms. Thus the Council accentuated the anomaly inherent to the nature of military chaplaincy: chaplains, who preach love and reconciliation, minister within a military framework which, during war, becomes synonymous with mutilation, death and conquest. This contradiction elicits questions on the character and quality of ministry in a military environment. Literature on modern military chaplaincy does not differentiate between the assignment of military chaplains and civilian clergy: both bring the Gospel and exercise pastoral care. In comparison, however, chaplains experience a much closer involvement and interdependency with their working environment than civilian clergy. They cannot observe military customs and military discipline from a distance. In the South African military context they become part of it as paid officers. During the Namibian War of Independence (1966-1989), commonly referred to as the Border War or the Bush War, this reciprocation resulted in a debate on the independence of the military chaplain's ministry, and a call for the demilitarization of chaplains.

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