AFRICOM chaplain supports military Iftar with U.S. Defense Attaché Office in Djibouti
Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa Image Public Affairs
DJIBOUTI, Djibouti City – Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) members met at the residence of U.S. Navy Capt. John Tully, Senior Defense Official/Defense Attaché, U.S. Embassy Djibouti, and his wife, Julie, for an Iftar and a prayer led by U.S. Navy Cmdr. Abuhena Saifulislam, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) deputy command chaplain, here, May 31.
Saifulisilam is the first Imam – a leader of Islamic prayers and services – appointed as an AFRICOM chaplain.
“We all may be different, but that doesn’t mean it’s a division,” Saifulislam said to the group of varying religious beliefs. “We are all together as a humanity for the betterment of our world and for future generations. It is easier to bring guns and bombs together; it is harder to bring people together. So, these are the things that bring and bind us together with common cause.”
The approximately 50 participants were predominantly military members from CJTF-HOA, Camp Lemonnier and the Djiboutian Armed Forces. U.S. Embassy personnel were also in attendance. The event began with a welcome by Tully, then a break of the fast for Islamic practitioners, a Ramadan prayer, and concluded with a dinner.
Ramadan takes place in the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and is the holiest month observed by Muslims worldwide. During this celebration, Muslims fast between sunrise and sunset for 30 days to commemorate the Prophet Muhammad receiving his first Qur’anic revelation. The daily fast ends at sundown, when families gather for their nightly meal – the Iftar.
“This year, we saw the opportunity to have the Iftar in our home,” said Julie Tully. “Our main message tonight is one of friendship and the sharing of cultures.”
The sharing and understanding of cultures serves a diplomatic function, but also reinforces the efforts of CJTF-HOA in securing a stable environment in East Africa through organized efforts against violent extremist organizations (VEOs). To accomplish this mission, U.S. military resources are directed toward developing East African militaries. A foundation of strong partnerships within the Horn of Africa is a key element in working toward CTJF-HOA’s end goal of neutralizing VEOs.
“CJTF-HOA works throughout East Africa and there’s a large Muslim presence here,” said Brig. Gen. Howard Purcell, CJTF-HOA deputy commander. “We work closely with the government of Djibouti and the various ministries and military, so we respect their traditions and are honored to be included in this. The key to building partnerships is to be friends. So, to be friends we have to respect ways and customs.”
Purcell continued by stating that be believes CJTF-HOA’s Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines are successfully embracing the notion of partnerships as it applies to the U.S. military’s goal of focusing on troop contributing countries.
The vision of AFRICOM’s Chaplain Corps is to increase spiritual strength, thereby enhancing the stability and security on the continent of Africa and its island nations. They foster trusted relationships with African military chaplains, religious leaders, U.S. government teammates, allies, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations.
Saifulislam will continue engage in this vision as he proceeds leading prayers and participating in Iftar throughout the Horn of Africa during Ramadan this year.
“Two things bring people together: food and faith,” said Saifulislam. “This is a common thing every humanity enjoys – fellowship. As human beings, we like to know about each other. And this brings us to a common cause.”