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World: Vatican Cautions Against Muslim-Catholic Marriages (Part 1)



When Muslims and Christians Marry

On a blustery weekend this past February, 26 people met at the Cenacle Retreat House in Chicago to reflect on the religious dimensions of marriage. Nothing unusual about that. What was unusual about this gathering was that it brought together Christians and Muslims who are married, engaged or seriously considering marriage.

Attendees hailed mostly from the Chicago area, but also from Valparaiso, Minneapolis, Rochester, Minn. But many may not realize how prevalent it is among Catholics. Catholic-Jewish couples, because of their greater number and longer history in American society, have a growing list of resources, including muslim man dating catholic woman, Web sites and support groups like the national Dovetail Institute and the Chicago-based Jewish Catholic Couples Group.

But there are practically no pastoral resources for Christian-Muslim couples in the United States, despite the fact that according to many estimates, there are now more Muslims in this country than Muslim man dating catholic woman. The few print resources available to pastors and couples are either outdated or written for a non-American context.

The Canadian Centre for Ecumenism has just published an exellent document, Pastoral Guidelines for Muslim-Christian Marriages. The dearth of resources, combined with the reluctance of many imams and pastors even to broach the subject, has left Christian-Muslim couples at a loss. To whom can they turn for advice about the unique issues they face? Where can priests and campus ministers go when called upon to counsel the small but growing number of such couples? And Christian-Muslim couples truly are in need of especially sensitive and informed pastoral care.

It attracted a diverse group—Christians diverse according to denomination Catholic, Episcopalian, Lutheran, MethodistMuslims according to ethnicity Egyptian, Indian, Thai, American-Polish-Pakistani. Yet all wrestled with the same concerns: While addressing these topics with Muslim man dating catholic woman and Muslim experts was necessary, couples agreed that one of the best aspects of the weekend was the chance to discuss their concerns with others in the same situation.

What follows is a brief exploration of three major challenges facing Christian-Muslim couples, and indeed most interfaith couples: On Saturday night, retreatants participated in an activity designed to get them thinking about boundaries. They were also asked to list their fears, rational or not. In their lists of shalls and shall nots, the overwhelming response of the participants, no matter the religion, was: However, couples also indicated with equal vigor a willingness to learn about and from the other: This exercise highlighted the importance of discussing negotiables and non-negotiables as early as possible in the relationship, so as to avoid misunderstandings later.

However, even after going through the difficult process of negotiating boundaries, couples cannot presume that the initial lines drawn would be immovable. The married couples present agreed that all should expect to be changed in some way by the faith of their partners. Opportunities for prayer were provided at several points during the weekend: Mirroring contemporary American society, couples differed greatly in their degree of personal and mutual religious practice.

In this case, the Christian woman felt she needed to go to church alone, so she could pray without constantly worrying about how her partner would react to the crucifix, the Eucharist and so on. Some couples tried to find a common language that would allow them to pray together. This is often accomplished by the Christian agreeing to adopt Islam-friendly language in prayer—which is not difficult, since Christians and Muslims believe in the same God and both call God merciful, just, compassionate and omnipotent.

One Lutheran-Muslim couple said that they did not pray salat ritual prayer that includes specific movements together because doing so may be considered a credal affirmation of Islam. The couple sees praying together as one way of binding their lives together. They felt more comfortable praying in their own tradition, but in the presence of the other—e. Reaching this decision was difficult enough, but living it out has been a constant challenge, even painful muslim man dating catholic woman times.

Anne recalled that just as she was bursting with joy at the baptism of their first child, she looked over at her muslim man dating catholic woman to see tears streaming down his face. Emotions about the sacrament run deep for both Christians and Muslims, and most people do not realize how visceral their reaction to the mere word may be. A sacrament of Christian initiation, baptism is no mere nicety, easily negotiated.

Baptism means becoming part of the Christian community, and Muslims are very aware of this fact, sometimes more than Christians. The Muslims—mostly men at this retreat—felt that allowing their children to be baptized meant they had somehow failed in one of their most important duties, muslim man dating catholic woman raise their children as Muslims in Islam, the faith and all it entails is transmitted through the father. Anne and Mohammed continue to struggle with the challenges of their choice.

They emphasize that they are not attempting a synthesis. They feel that this is the best way to help their children become adults of strong faith. Another area of difficulty for these couples is how to teach their children about Jesus. Do Christians in interfaith marriages feel they must downplay certain aspects of their faith for the sake of harmony? Are their Muslim partners even asking them to do so? On the other hand, many couples feel that focusing on beliefs held in common increases family unity.

Although the retreatants were concerned about the possibility of making too many compromises and relativizing faith, they did note a distinction between objective theological concepts and the lived experience of faith, a distinction that can make life together possible. Some would argue that the two cannot be separated—and those who believe this may eventually decide against marriage. But for the rest of these highly educated, moderately to strongly religious couples, while theology is important, it does not have the last word.


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