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Most of these unions involve Catholics and other Christians (a more ecumenically sensitive term is “interchurch” marriage rather than “mixed,” which has some negative connotations).However, increasing numbers of Catholics are marrying Jews, Muslims and adherents of other religions (the canonical term here is “disparity of cult,” but “interfaith” or “interreligious” marriage are more user-friendly terms).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.

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“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.

One married couple hadn’t prayed together “because we never had the chance.” Another couple (engaged) hadn’t prayed together either, but because of a conscious choice.

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?

It attracted a diverse group—Christians diverse according to denomination (Catholic, Episcopalian, Lutheran, Methodist), Muslims according to ethnicity (Egyptian, Indian, Thai, American-Polish-Pakistani).

Yet all wrestled with the same concerns: different religious understandings of marriage (sacrament versus sacred contract, divine versus human institution), greater family involvement in mate selection and marriage, Islam’s proscription of dating, potential legal problems in countries with sharia (Islamic law) in force, greater cultural differences (and more difficulty distinguishing the religious from the cultural).

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. That’s how far I’ve come.”Opportunities for prayer were provided at several points during the weekend: a room was set aside for the five daily Muslim prayers, there was Catholic Mass and an ecumenical morning prayer.

The few print resources available to pastors and couples are either outdated or written for a non-American context.

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