Death is not the end and soldiers need to be spiritually better prepared for war, according to the head of the British Army.
General Sir Richard Dannatt, Chief of the General Staff, said that Christian leaders and chaplains in the Army needed to equip soldiers for the spiritual issues at stake.
“In my business, asking people to risk their lives is part of the job, but doing so without giving them the chance to understand that there is a life after death is something of a betrayal,” he said.
Sir Richard, who has been outspoken with his view that the presence of British troops in Iraq exacerbates the country’s security problems, made his latest controversial comments at an evangelical Christian conference in Swanwick, Derbyshire.
The General, an unabashed evangelical Anglican Christian himself, said that he saw it as incumbent on him in his role in the Army to include a spiritual dimension when preparing soldiers for war.
“I think there is very much an obligation on . . . a Christian leader to include a spiritual dimension into his people’s preparations for operations, and the general conduct of their lives,” he said. “Qualities and core values are fine as a universally acceptable moral baseline for leadership, but the unique life, death, resurrection and promises of Christ provide that spiritual opportunity that I believe takes the privilege of leadership to another level.” In his speech, reported in this week’s Church of England Newspaper, the Chief of the General Staff said that a true leader’s authority came down to the nature of their character and the degree of their integrity.
“Character defines the person – it answers the question as to whether this is someone to emulate and with what enthusiasm. Integrity establishes the moral baseline to lead.”
Sir Richard has well established views and has previously given warning about the “threat” of Islam in Britain. In a controversial interview last year with the Daily Mail, he said: “When I see the Islamist threat in this country I hope it doesn’t make undue progress because there is a moral and spiritual vacuum in this country.”
A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said: “We can confirm that the Chief of the General Staff gave a wide-ranging speech on military leadership to the ‘Aiming 4 Excellence’ conference on October 2, attended by chief executive officers of a number of charities.”
General Dannatt has been outspoken about his Christian views and values and has emphasised his concerns over falling moral standards in Britain ever since taking over as head of the Army.
However, it is the first time that he has placed such importance on soldiers being prepared spiritually for battle.
He has given a warning in a previous speech of the need for the Army to prepare itself for a generation of conflict, and said that soldiers had to be ready physically and mentally for the struggle against extremism both at home and overseas.