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Interfaith Leadership & Religious Literacy
November 6, 2023

Three Chaplains, a documentary that profiles Muslim religious leaders in the U.S. military premiered nationally on PBS on November 6, just before Veteran’s Day. The film aired as part of PBS’s INDEPENDENT LENS, an Emmy award-winning film series that has earned several Oscar nominations.

The AVDF-supported film highlights interfaith collaboration and religious freedom, a timely topic as the world watches the ongoing developments of the Israel-Hamas War.

The one-hour film provides viewers with a behind-the-scenes look into the military and how the careers of the three Muslim chaplains evolved. Air Force Chaplain Rafael Lantigua has more than 20 years of military service and is now an Air Force major with a reputation for teaching young service members about discovering their faith. Army Colonel Khallid Shabazz recently became the U.S. military’s highest-ranking Muslim clergyman. Chaplain Saleha Jabeen is the Department of Defense’s first female Muslim chaplain.

Viewers witness the trials and successes of each chaplain as they challenge long-held, biased perceptions about Muslims. The documentary details how these chaplains serve their country while also providing active-duty members with a deeper and more authentic understanding of Islam that helps combat anti-Muslim bias. Lantigua, Shabazz, and Jabeen show how they remain grounded in their faith under sometimes trying conditions while at the same time seeking to improve religious pluralism and tolerance across the U.S. Department of Defense.

Director David Washburn has partnered with American Muslim veteran storytellers for years and came to appreciate the role that Muslim chaplains play in the military.

“These three Americans illustrate how Muslim chaplains support the U.S. military and break down commonly held stereotypes about Muslims in America,” Washburn said in a press release. “My hope is that Three Chaplains can reshape viewers’ sense of what a military leader looks like beyond the pervasive Hollywood image, and to show people that religious diversity is truly part of everyday life in America.”

Three Chaplains is available to view through PBS. As a complement to the film, viewers can access a screening guide that provides background information about the complex role and diversity of chaplains in the U.S. military. The Three Chaplains film was featured in the Religion News Service and the full article can be read here. The film was also featured in The Associated Press.


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