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Pratima Dharm is US Armys first Hindu chaplain

New York: Pratima Dharm, a serving woman captain in the American Army, has been named the first-ever Hindu chaplain in the US Defence Department.

Dharm, 40, is the first Indian-American woman to be appointed as US Military`s Hindu chaplain.

Coming from a diverse background, she migrated to America just months before the 9/11 attacks. She was born in New Delhi.

"My neighbours were Muslims, my neighbours were Jews, Buddhists, Jains, Hindus, Christians," she was quoted as saying.

"My close friends in school represented all the different faith groups, and it never occurred to me then that we were different or there was anything strange about it."

She said the US Army, and the United States itself were founded on the idea that people can be united while worshipping differently.

Hinduism, with nearly a billion adherents worldwide ? has fewer than 1,000 active service members, according to Pentagon statistics ? was the largest of the world faiths not represented by a chaplain.

Dharm, a chaplain on the medical staff at Walter Reed Army Medical Centre, has started getting emails from her friends though the official announcement is yet to be made.

"I`m already on the job," she said.

"There`s this tremendous sense of hope and relief that there is someone who understands their story at a deeper level, coming from the background I do."

"To be able to sit down and show compassion for soldiers I have never met before is part of the message of Christ as well as [the Hindu teachings] of Vedanta."

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