Marine disciplined for passing out coins
Stars and Stripes May 31, 2008
ARLINGTON, Va. — A Marine has been removed from his duties after reportedly angering Iraqis in Fallujah by handing them coins bearing a Christian Bible verse written in Arabic, military officials said.
Multi-National Force-West has launched an investigation into the matter, according to MNF-W spokesman Capt. John Caldwell in a news release Thursday.
"If the allegation is substantiated, appropriate action will be taken," said Caldwell, who assumes the rank of major on June 1.
The McClatchy Company first reported on Thursday that Fallujah residents saw the Marine’s actions as an attempt to convert them to Christianity.
Maj. Gen. John Kelly, the commander of U.S. troops in western Iraq, has discussed the matter with local sheiks, who said they understand it is an isolated incident, Caldwell said.
Col. James Welsh, MNF-W chief of staff, said the matter "has our full attention."
"We deeply value our relationship with the local citizens and share their concerns over this serious incident," Welsh said in the news release.
According to the McClatchy report, the unnamed Marine allegedly gave Iraqis the coin, which said on one side "Where will you spend eternity?" and on the other "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16."
Such a move would be against regulations, which prohibit servicemembers from "proselytizing any religion, faith or practices," said Col. Billy Buckner, a spokesman for Multi-National Corps-Iraq.
"Our troops are trained on those guidelines before they deploy," Buckner said in the news release.
McClatchy reported that the head of the Sunni endowment in Fallujah, the organization that oversees places of worship, issued a statement demanding the Marines stop such proselytizing.
"This can cause strife between the Iraqis and especially between Muslim and Christians," Sheik Mohammed Amin Abdel Hadi told the news service. "Please stop these things and leave our homes, because we are Muslims and we live in our homes in peace with other religions."
Recently, U.S. officials had to apologize after a sniper reportedly used a Quran for target practice. The sniper in question was removed from Iraq.