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Team Shaw celebrates religious diversity this holiday season

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- One of the many benefits of military life is meeting people who are different than I am, whether it is political perspective, world-view, or even religious belief.

Diversity is valued. Another hallmark highlighting the uniqueness of our way of life is, with diversity, there is also respect. In the Armed Forces these two values go hand-in-hand.

The Constitution of the United States guarantees its citizens the free exercise of religion, while avoiding government establishing religion.

Recently updated, AFI 1-1, Air Force Standards, dated Nov. 12 2014, echoes these values stating, "Every Airman is free to practice the religion of their choice or subscribe to no religious belief at all. You should confidently practice your own beliefs while respecting others whose viewpoints differ from your own. Every Airman also has the right to individual expression of sincerely held beliefs, to include conscience, moral principles or religious beliefs, unless those expressions would have an adverse impact on military readiness, unit cohesion, good order, discipline, health and safety, or mission accomplishment."

This December, Shaw AFB has a great opportunity to appreciate our religious diversity.

On Dec. 3, the 2015 Christmas Tree/Religious Display Lighting and Interfaith Ceremony will be held at the Friendship Chapel grounds beginning at 5:30 p.m.
Multiple faith groups will be represented in the events, and displays will be lit until Jan. 7 2016.

Many religious holidays occur during the months of December and January, some include: Bodhi Day (Buddhist), Hanukkah (Jewish), Winter Solstice (Pagan/Wiccan), Christmas (Western Christian Church), Christmas (Eastern Christian Church), and Guru Gobindh Singh Birthday (Sikh).

You might be wondering why "Christmas" is listed twice. In Christianity the "Western Churches" (Roman Catholic and most protestant churches) celebrate Christmas on the 25th of December. The "Eastern Church" (Orthodox Church) celebrates Christmas day later. This year the Orthodox Christmas falls on Jan. 7 2015. 

As the religious displays are lit on base each night from Dec. 3 through the of Jan. 8, 2016, you will notice that the Menorah is only lit from Dec. 6-14. This is because Hanukkah (meaning "dedication") occurs between those dates.

As we embark in this season of religious holidays, I encourage you to practice your faith with sincere devotion, respect persons of other faiths including those who may not profess any religious belief, and appreciate the blessing that we live in a country that celebrates religious diversity and the principles that each of us can honor our faith tenets in peace and good will, free from persecution.

May God Bless Team Shaw!