More than 40 soldiers deployed to Camp Arifjan and Camp Buehring, Kuwait, participated in cultural awareness training in Kuwait City recently.
The religious affairs specialists and chaplains began their day of cultural immersion organized by the Area Support Group Kuwait unit ministry team at the Amricani Cultural Centre.
The Amricani Cultural Centre campus got its start in 1912 when it served as the American Mission Hospital. Its facilities now serve as the home of the Dar al Athar al Islamiyyah, a cultural organization that operates several cultural centers in Kuwait and manages a collection of more than 20,000 pieces of rare Islamic art.
Khateeb Mohammed Al-Naqwi, the Islamic preacher for the Islamic Affairs and Moral Guidance Center at the Grand Mosque, presented a basic primer on Islam to the soldiers.
"Many people fail to understand that Islam is based on two things, and on two things only: the Quran and the Hadith," said Al-Naqwi. "The Quran is the word of God, the book of instructions, and from the other side, the Hadith, that is the traditions, the sayings or the actions."
Sgt. Dean L. Wilson, a religious affairs assistant assigned to the 3rd Medical Command, 1st Theater Sustainment Command, said the training moved him.
"This helps give you more of a … realistic aspect of what goes on in the Islam religion," Wilson said. "It gives you a better understanding that you can also carry back home and say 'Hey, what we thought we knew or perceived in the news and stuff is not true.'
"And now we can better practice pluralism, where we can actually practice being in the setting and place with different religions and respectfully coexist with one another of different cultural backgrounds," the religious affairs specialist continued. "We all respectfully want peace, and we don't want any hatred among anybody, so we should all accept each other individually and love one another."
After the cultural awareness training, the soldiers toured the Grand Mosque.
Construction on Kuwait's official mosque was completed in 1986. The Grand Mosque features an Islamic library, and its main prayer hall can accommodate up to 10,000 men.
Capt. Philibert D. Meyor, a chaplain assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division Sustainment Brigade, 1st Theatre Sustainment Command, said participating in the cultural awareness event will help him better balance his own Christian faith and minister to his soldiers.
"Just learning about Islam will help me if I engage Muslim soldiers," Meyor said. "I will be able to have a conversation with him or her. I will be very sensitive to their culture and their religion, so it's very meaningful to me, and it's something that I got a whole lot out of."
Maj. Brandon G. Joseph, a chaplain assigned to the 3rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command, 1st TSC, said he hoped the experiences enriched the soldiers who participated.
"It's a good refresher and reminder, not only of cultural awareness and just being aware of who you're around, but I think it's really good for religion and faith and spirituality, itself," Joseph said. "I think it's really special."