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My partner and I are of different faiths, will it work?

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By Sarah Tumwebaze

Posted  Thursday, December 5   2013 at  02:00

When 35-year-old Fernando (not real name) decided to walk his Muslim girlfriend down the aisle five years ago, he should have known that overtime, the challenges would be beyond just the fear of telling his family that he was converting to Islam.

Today, the father of three girls, says there are certain things he is finding hard to adjust to things he says he is facing as a result of not having an in-depth discussion with his wife before they got married.

“I thought I could easily give up taking alcohol but once in a while I sneak around and take a bottle or two, a thing that makes my wife very mad. I also do not like the fact that my wife keeps our daughters covered up all the time. These are some things we never discussed extensively and they are now a source of our constant quarrels,” Fernando says.

For him, his main challenge then was convincing his parents about his decision to convert to Islam.

“My wife comes from a very devout Muslim family, while I come from a very staunch Catholic family. Her family had barred her from getting married to me unless I had converted,” he says.

“After weighing the gains and losses of converting, I made a decision and everyone at home attacked me. They even refused to come for my union at the mosque but I did not mind because they had promised to attend the reception.”

At the reception, though, his family members kept complaining because they loved alcohol which they could not get because it was a Muslim wedding.
However, at the moment, his family has come to terms with the fact that their son is now a Muslim.

Mr David Kavuma, a psychologist at Adonai Counselling and Training Services at Mildmay Uganda, says challenges such as what Fernando is facing are bound to happen if a couple is in an inter-faith marriage.

“You need to think of the things you will change and which religion the children will belong to. Some of the things you might need to change are your behaviour, the places you go to and at times the things you eat. But this can at times be hard, which is why you need a very supportive spouse,” he says.

Mr Kavuma adds that in terms of religion, children normally tend to lean more towards the father’s religion. However, you can still agree as a couple on how to incorporate both religions in the family.

Consulting parents
Before children come into the picture, there is need to seek the parents’ consent and the wedding issue. In Fernando’s case, he had no problem having only his friends come for their union at the mosque.
Kavuma, however, says while the couple might agree to get married, the parents’ input on both sides is important.

“It is important to consult the parents on how the two of you can live together. But while some parents can be cooperative, others may not; this is when you need a neutral person like a counsellor or a neutral religious person to talk to the parents.”

When the wedding comes, the couple might choose to have their union in a specific church even when parents from one side are against the idea.

However, “At the end of the day, the parents’ presence at a wedding is important, which is why some couples choose to have two unions.” “If the couple is Catholic and a Pentecostal, they can go to both churches. This allows parents from both sides to witness the union.”

Besides the parents’ consent, there are celebrations to think of. Where one is Muslim and the other Christian, such couples need to think of important days such as Christmas and Idd as well as burials, because while Christians allow women to bury, Muslims do not.

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