How couples make interfaith marriages work

Julius Kiggundu and Sharon Kihembo

What you need to know:

  • Martin was raised by staunch Catholic parents, he was sure to attend school and church which were under the leadership roles of his father. Everything spoke to their deep-rootedness in religion.

When two have to become one.  Different couples talk about their interfaith marriages, writes Esther Bridget Nakalya.

Baker Ssekitto and Getrude

In 2016, Baker, a Muslim met Gertrude a Catholic when they were pursuing a professional course.

“While we were dating, I had fears that our relationship would fail. I initially wanted a Christian man because my brother is a priest and my elder sister is a nun,” Gertrude reveals.

The couple admits that prior to their wedding, they encountered challenges convincing Gertrude’s family.

“We had love for each other which kept us going. We managed to hold several meetings between our parents, as my parents wanted Baker to convert which was what his parents wished for me,” she recounts.

Eventually, the couple settled to maintain their respective religions.

“On December 14, 2021, we tied the knot at Kibuli Mosque and got a blessing from Nsambya Catholic Church,” Baker says.

The lovebirds chose to attend prayers at their traditional places of worship on the expected days.

“I hired a tutor for the children in order to guide them on Islamic teachings, but we usually say a unified prayer most evenings before bedtime,” Gertrude explains.

Baker and Gertrude urge couples in interfaith relationships to stay firm and love each other for it is all possible with God.

Isaac, a media personality met his wife Hajara on a local TV programme for the single and searching. In the beginning, the two say, they were uncomfortable with each other.

“My husband was a media personality and I, a conservative Muslim girl. I was clear on my demands in a lover but he still reached out yet he was not a Muslim,” Hajara recalls.

Isaac, on the other hand was smitten.

“Hajara is attractive, but I was concerned why she would be searching for a lover in the media. I contacted her and we started dating but she was so worried about her parents’ reaction of our relationship,” Isaac recollects.

Hajara’s parents were unhappy with her choice of spouse.

“Despite the parental opposition, we settled for a civil marriage and continued preparations with a few friends and family. We also discussed where to pray from and which religion the children had to follow,” they share.

The Covenant of Muhammad is a treaty between Muslims and Christians in the Islamic law permits spouses married to Muslims, from different religious backgrounds to attend churches and prayers.

“My husband allows me to go to the mosque and whenever I am fasting, my family understands and creates space for me to isolate in prayer,” says Hajara, adding, “We decided to raise our children as Christians.”

 Hajara and Isaac encourage couples in inter-faith marriages that love beats odds.  We find out how such couples thrive, from how they reach a middle ground; in their prayer lives, and making decisions for their children.

Martin and Sandra Ssebugwawo

Martin says he met his wife at the Coffee Terrace during a live band performance at Grand Imperial Hotel.

“I was intrigued! I had to look Sandra up on Facebook from where I got her contact, and we started chatting and dating a few months later,” Martin reveals.

Martin was raised by staunch Catholic parents, he was sure to attend school and church which were under the leadership roles of his father. Everything spoke to their deep-rootedness in religion.

Sandra on the other hand, was raised in a staunch Pentecostal home.

“During courtship, we noticed our religious differences and were worried about it. My parents were concerned and thought I would convert but I convinced them that I would keep the same virtues they passed on to me,” Sandra recounts.

They expressed their fears to each other and discussed how to deal with the differences.

“I explained to Martin why I could not convert to his religion and we reached an agreement to respect each other’s religions. However, I still had to attend premarital counselling classes and baptism at Martin’s church,” she adds.

She confesses to have been uncomfortable with the Catholic lessons but love reigned.

“On September 7, 2014, we wedded at Sacred Heart Rubaga Cathedral. And after the union, we agreed to raise our children in the Catholic faith,” they share.

Sandra shares her thoughts on choosing where the children should go.

 “It is the African way for children to take on their father’s faith, so they always attend Holy Mass with their father while I go to my church as well,” she  says.

Martin reveals their first disagreement from their differences.

“At some point my wife realised there was no Sunday school at my church and diverted the children to the Pentecostal church for a vibrant feel of Sunday school as she explained to which I strongly disagreed,” he says.

Great communication they believe has been their strength.

 “My Husband was unhappy with my decision and expressed his concerns which I understood and it helped. He believed I was confusing our children,” Sandra shares. And adds, “For the peace of our home, I have submitted to my husband’s demands, especially when it comes to our children and we all pray as one unit during gatherings.”

The Ssebugwawos explain, “We attribute our healthy inter-faith marriage to good communication. We openly express our concerns to each other when faced with a religious disagreement and immediately resolve them.”

Doreen and Nitin Bhagwani

Doreen and Nitin Bhagwani

Doreen Namugenyi Bhagwani is Anglican and she met her husband Nitin Bhagwani, a Hindu on Facebook in 2010.

“We used to chat and we found out that we were in the same geographical location and planned our first date which went well,” recounts Doreen.

The lovebirds did not talk much about their religious differences because they were truly, madly, and deeply in love.  Nitin was over the moon for Doreen.

“Doreen had a pure heart. She was outgoing, respectful, jolly and loved family. These qualities overshadowed the fact that she was not of Indian descent and I wanted her for keeps,” he reveals.

Doreen, on the other hand was sincere and her parents appreciated Nitin’s humility.

On October 11, 2011 Nitin was introduced by Doreen at their home in Ggaba, a Kampala suburb just a week before her graduation. The couple, then travelled to India later to legalise their marriage.

 “My wedding ceremony in India was on  April 13, 2014 and was only witnessed by my father, mother and cousin at a hotel  in company of my husband’s friends and family,” Doreen recounts.

Doreen says, her parents were not content with this arrangement and negotiated for a church wedding.

Her husband being a down to earth spouse, consented to go through all the church sacraments in order to wed the love of his wife.

 Eventually, to meet everyone’s satisfaction and middle ground, the couple wedded on May 25, 2014 at St John’s Church in Kawuku and hosted their guests to a colourful venue.

The two have since then created a balance between their religious differences.

“My husband and I agreed on what is unifying for us as a family. Together with our children, we attend church while in Uganda and the temple while in India as churches are distantly located and few in India,” she says.

The couple also advises couples to be open, faithful to each other and let God lead in their relationships.

Julius Kiggundu and Sharon Kihembo

Julius Kiggundu  and Sharon Kihembo

Sharon and Julius met at work.

“I was Anglican and Julius, a Roman Catholic,” Sharon recalls.

The two say religion was not an issue at the time they met. Julius would take Sharon for prayers including overnights. There, she picked interest in his beliefs and once told him this would foster togetherness among them as a family.

  “My wife went through baptism in order to convert to my faith and with time she recited the Catholic prayers better than I did. She even had a better grasp of the religion during question and answer sessions during premarital counselling classes,” Julius explains. “It is from here that we wed on September 3, 2016 at St Mbaaga-Tuzinde, Catholic Church Kiwatule,” he adds.

They did not have any disagreements with parents, and they admit that their love for each other  blossomed.

“I believe that joining my husband’s church has made our marriage work and enabled us keep differences at bay,” Sharon says.

From the start Sharon adds that she did not want to confuse their children with religious differences.

She says, “We find it smooth to prepare for  prayers as we pray  as a family.”

Her husband has been patient and allowed Sharon to learn and whenever she makes a mistake, he corrects her.

“My husband is liberal and whenever he visits my parents he adjusts to accommodate the Anglican prayers,” she explains.

Religious take

The Rev Joseph Tusingwire of Bishop McAllister College, Kyogera, describes interfaith marriages as two churches, one marriage.  “In such arrangements, the couple can tie the knot at one church and get a blessing from another church,” he shares.

The reverend suggests that couples in inter faith marriages should ably deal with their religious differences.

“If mishandled, such differences can become a source of conflict and tension within the relationship,” he adds.

He urges couples to use their spiritual differences as a catalyst for growth.

“This unit examines constructive ways to work with religious differences that will enrich rather than divide a couple considering the challenges that arise such as raising children and dealing with family and friends,” he concludes.

 “To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him,” 1 Corinthians 7:12-13.