Indian Troops in WWI
Indian troops were critical to Allied victory in WWI.

Today is Armistice Day (now known as Veterans Day), which was originally created to mark the end of World War 1.

Over 100 years after the Great War's end, as America and other countries honor their veterans, some faith groups are still battling for recognition that they too fought and died for Europe and America. And historians believe that a more thorough understanding of the faith makeup of WWI soldiers can help battle modern prejudices.

One group fighting for acknowledgment of Muslim contributions towards the war effort is Forgotten Heroes 14-19 Foundation. Through extensive research of primary sources like letters and field reports, they’ve put together as thorough a record as possible of the Muslim effort for the Allies.

They found that more than four million Muslims around the globe either fought or worked as laborers in World War I.

There are also numerous firsthand accounts of Christians, Jews, Muslims and other faith groups sharing their beliefs and culture in the trenches. And the efforts of “chaplains, priests, rabbis and imams went out of their way to learn, Arabic, Hebrew, English and French, in order to accommodate religious burials of the dead on the battlefront.”

100 years later, they hope that highlighting the great effort of Muslims across the globe can help tear down barriers today. The report notes that “Many far-right activists and sympathisers in Europe say, and believe, 'Muslims have never done anything for us.' The truth is one which they can’t deny. They (Muslim soldiers) made the greatest sacrifice. They died for you too. Hundreds of thousands of them.”

Forgotten Soldiers

Individuals of all faith backgrounds fought for the Allies during WWI. Sikhs, for example, fought bravely in both World War I and II for the British Indian Army. Known as the ‘Lions of the Great War’, they made up about 35,000 of the roughly 161,000 troops of the Indian Army, despite being only about 2% of the population.

Sikhs bravery in battle and penchant for heroics proved to be a major boon for the British, so much so that they went out of their way to set up Sikh Temples on the battlefield. Sikhs also faced difficulties other faith groups didn’t. They “fought disease, filth, [and] gas attacks... with only their turbans to protect them from head wounds and their unshorn hair and long beards, as prescribed by their religious faith, in disease infested, muddy trenches.”

And in the Great War, hundreds of thousands of Jewish people fought for the Allies. Roughly 250,000, in fact, fought for the United States, double that in the Russian Army, and about 40,000 for the British.

Jewish diplomats and organizations played critical roles in peace negotiations. Their participation and sacrifice also helped grant them a wider acceptance within American culture. “Before World War I, most Americans saw Jews as an alien population,” JewishBoston writes. Their participation in the war brought them from “immigrants” to “Americans”.

A Global Faith Effort

As the 14-19 Foundation hopes to show, 20th-century warfare was not fought just by Christians. Hundreds of thousands of non-Christian American and European men and women fought and died for their respective countries. And yet, their contributions to the war effort have largely been ignored or forgotten by history.

"The way [World War I] is taught currently is very European-centric,” says Hayyan Bhabha. “The history that is taught doesn't show the true diversity of everyone that took part in the First World War."

They’re fighting to change that.

In 1919, the first Armistice Day was observed, celebrating the end of World War I. In 1954, President Eisenhower signed a bill into law that officially made November 11 a federal holiday to honor all veterans - and thus the holiday was renamed Veteran's Day.

This Veteran's Day, let's make sure we honor the sacrifice of all soldiers who lost their lives.

7 comments

  1. Clay Serenbetz's Avatar Clay Serenbetz

    Any defender of our democracy and our freedoms is a hero irrespective of their faith or lack thereof.

  1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

    In Canada its called Remembrance Day and they have a different name for it in Europe. So we DO remember all the ones who fought for us and with us inWW1 and WW2. Anyone can see this by just looking at the tombstones with all the different religions listed on them in Arlington and in Normandy/Luxenbourg/Ardennes/Brittany and a host of others. So the main question is WHY is the author of this thread trying to imply that we dont? they should be ashamed of themselves.

  1. Minister Mike's Avatar Minister Mike

    So were WWII, the Spanish American War, the American Revolution and Civil wars, Korean War, War against terrorism, Vietnam War. Not an earth shattering headline, but it does reinforce the notion that christians are pretty self centered.

  1. T Kosse`'s Avatar T Kosse`

    My father who serve in the Army infantry during WWII was stationed in North Africa and later in Italy and Europe as the war progressed. Would sometime tell me about the local nomadic Bedouin tribes in North Africa and what great admiration he had for them. The nomadic Bedouin tribes would aid the American and British troops by gathering information, He said the they were loyal and fierce fighters they would often terrorize the Nazis by silently sneaking in the Germans tents at night and slice the throats of every other German Soldier while they were sleeping so when they woke up they would see the person who was sleeping next them dead with their throat cut

  1. T Kosse`'s Avatar T Kosse`

    My father said that you have a duty as a citizen to serve your country in the military to defend and protect it, But he also hated war, he said there is nothing glorify or romantic about war. He had great disdain for anyone that would glorify or romanticize war. He said that it's ugly, bloody and brutal. He especially dislike General George S Patton whom all the troop called Blood and gut Patton. He said that General Patton was nothing more then glory seeking dog who thought nothing about sacrificing the troop under his command in order to gain more glory

    1. Ilmenheru Terikson's Avatar Ilmenheru Terikson

      Its funny how Soldiers, the actual slaves of our society, who often act as if they are above the free citizen, dare to say every citizen should be a servant of the state, as if we lived in a mopnarchy or some other form of government.

      I Serve no man, no king, no god, no country. I am no ones servant, nor slave. To even suggest I owe a duty to someone or something that has never done its fair share for me in turn, is like sugesting I do not deserve to be entitled to personal autonomy because of some idea of duty to some egocentric concept like patriotism.

  1. Richard Lee Cornell's Avatar Richard Lee Cornell

    Any statues that BLM can tear down. If you live in America long enough a family member went to war. The American Indian went to war against Germany so that they could score a kill. Some even said that it was a time that they were paid to kill the white man by the government that treated them so badly. There are many reason to go to war and some times it is not the same reason that most people think. Many times it is out of revenge. Going back to the old country to settle a killing that happen 200 years ago, because it is the proper thing to do. In Europe past wars are still going on. Almost like the Civil War of 1861 people are still fighting it.

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