Moral education important in armed forces

Military personnel can face situations in which they are forced to do things they would never undertake in their personal lives. In his inaugural speech on October 6, endowed Professor Erik Sengers, who holds the chair of Issues of Spiritual Formation in the Armed Forces, therefore argues for better integration of spiritual care and democratic political awareness in the armed forces. Moral formation should also become an integral part.

The responsibility for moral formation now lies with the various religions themselves. Sengers believes that "the armed forces should be imbued with the importance of democracy, the rule of law and human dignity". He points out that this is a necessity because we live in a time when Western values are under pressure, as the war in Ukraine shows.

The content of spiritual care or pastoral care does not differ from its implementation in various locations, as it focuses on the core of human existence: guilt, forgiveness, hope, comfort, love, grace. Such care is based on the sociological premise of religion that human beings are meaningful beings. The spiritual caregiver helps people to express themselves, to give words to these experiences and feelings. Those who do not succeed doing this become stalled as human beings, on themselves, their relationship with others, with God. People without story and story community are purposeless and cannot connect, they become alienated. 

Individual care and socio-ethical issues closely linked

They gain meaning in life when they contribute positively to a greater whole, family, work, country or church and thus to the happiness of others. Pastoral care thus sees people in their context of social and family relationships. Thus, spiritual care also has a strong social commitment and an institutional component. Individual care and socio-ethical issues are closely linked.

Then it is the art of Christian spiritual care to see that individual person as the image of God, and where that image is out of balance, to help restore it. This involves meaning and spiritual well-being.

About Professor Erik Sengers

Sociologist and theologian Erik Sengers was appointed to the Tilburg School of Catholic Theology on June 1, 2023 to the special chair of Issues of Spiritual Formation in the Armed Forces. He taught and did research in (religious) sociology at the Protestant Theological University, the Vrije Universiteit, Fontys Hogescholen and the Tilburg School of Catholic Theology. He was also a staff member at the Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam. In 2016, he received his doctorate in church history from the Tilburg School of Catholic Theology. From 2017 to 2020, Sengers worked at the Department of Correctional Institutions as a spiritual director, and in 2020 he was appointed an armed forces chaplain at the Ministry of Defense. He is a deacon of the Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam and a board member of the Center for the Social Teaching of the Church.

Inaugural address

Professor Erik Sengers will deliver his inaugural speech on Oct. 6, 4:15 p.m. in the university’s auditorium with live stream. The speech is titled: Wilhelm, a man in times of war: Biography and system as a model for spiritual care. Inaugural address Prof. E. Sengers