What follows is a brief exploration of three major challenges facing Christian-Muslim couples, and indeed most interfaith couples: negotiating boundaries, praying together and raising children.On Saturday night, retreatants participated in an activity designed to get them thinking about boundaries.February’s conference, jointly planned by Christian and Muslim organizations in Chicago, was an attempt to meet the pastoral needs of these couples.It attracted a diverse group—Christians diverse according to denomination (Catholic, Episcopalian, Lutheran, Methodist), Muslims according to ethnicity (Egyptian, Indian, Thai, American-Polish-Pakistani).
“I have always deeply felt the need to fulfill my promise to raise my children Catholic, and before they were born I thought that if they ever decided to become Muslims as adults I would be crushed,” said one mother. Mirroring contemporary American society, couples differed greatly in their degree of personal and mutual religious practice.
“But in the end, neither of us was willing to give up our faith.
It’s the core of our existence and identity,” they said.
Reaction to such relationships can be strong, and many couples fear vehement disapproval from their families, ethnic group and/or society at large.
Muslim women wishing to marry Christian men face the additional worry of potential ostracism from the faith community, for although Islam permits Muslim men to marry “people of the book” (Christians and Jews), Muslim women marry only within the faith.