In a historic first for the British military, a Muslim and Sikh Padre have joined the Chaplain’s branch of the Royal Air Force.
Flight Lieutenant Mandeep Kaur, the first Sikh Padre, and Flight Lieutenant Ali Omar, the first Muslim Padre, both graduated at RAF College Cranwell in December after completing their reservist officer training.
Flight Lieutenant Kaur, who grew up in the Punjab region of India, was selected to be a Padre while studying for her doctorate in engineering in the UK.
Flight Lieutenant Omar, originally from Mombasa, Kenya, received a Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) from Oxford Brookes University in 2004 prior to completing a masters degree in translation studies at Portsmouth University.
RAF Chaplain-in-Chief, the Venerable (Air-Vice Marshal) John Ellis, said: “It has been an absolute privilege to welcome our first Sikh and Muslim commissioned Padres into the Royal Air Force and I look forward immensely to working with them into the future.”
Kaur and Omar will be responsible for providing spiritual and welfare support to soldiers and members of the RAF—along with their families—of Sikh and Muslim faith respectively.
Their duties will be varied and far-reaching, not to mention crucial to the military’s efforts at home and abroad, and can involve deployments on the frontline, on ships or wherever military personnel need them.
Following the graduation ceremony, Padre (Flight Lieutenant) Ali Omar said: “My role in the RAF as a flagbearer of the Muslim Chaplaincy will see me work with the RAF Chaplaincy branch to negotiate and establish the place of World Faith Chaplaincy within the RAF.”
The appointments of Kaur and Omar as Padres show the changing nature of the British military. It is fast becoming a diverse force comprised of men and women from a variety of different backgrounds, many of whom need to be supported in matters of faith.
Furthermore, their new position reveals the vast array of roles and careers offered by the armed forces, all of which are vital to carrying out our missions across the globe.