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What you need to know about Interfaith relations

What you need to know about Interfaith relations

Katya Shaposhnikova

Although the term "interfaith" sounds stale, the issue it raises is still very much relevant. People of different faiths face all kinds of relationship difficulties and discrimination. We look into what's going on and what we all can do about it.

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What are interfaith relations?

It is a relationship between people of different religions or confessions. For example, between a Catholic and a Protestant, or a Buddhist and a Muslim. Technically, an "agnostic + atheist" couple can also be considered interfaith, but let's be honest: when meeting a family of your agnostic partner, they won’t really be shocked if you joke about God. Interfaith couples overcome many difficulties in everyday life and communication with each other's families. It takes a lot of work with society, especially with loved ones, a mountain of bureaucratic problems in the case of marriage in many countries, as well as casual discrimination.

What is the difference between religion and denomination?

A denomination (or a confession) is a branch of a religion. In Christianity, for example, there are Orthodoxy, Catholicism, Protestantism, and numerous smaller denominations, such as Seventh-day Adventists. Surprisingly, the differences between them are often much more noticeable than those between representatives of different religions. For example, the Amish consider themselves Christians, but they would prefer for Catholics to stay 10 feet away. Attempting to date Amish's daughter? Good luck!

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What problems do interfaith couples face?

The rejection of families and the community is the most obvious. Each religious community has its own set of expectations for a person's life, and it frequently expects the same from their partner (especially from women in patriarchal religions).

Many routine practices are associated with religion, such as vegetarianism in Buddhism, fasting in Islam, and Orthodoxy. Non-observance of rituals is frequently interpreted as disrespect for culture, resulting in conflicts. Family and community can have a significant impact on one's life by requiring certain behaviors. Even though these have no meaning for the couple, they are markers of social status.

As of now, many countries have made it really difficult to not only legalize the relationships but also to even connect people of different religions. For example, Christians and Muslims in Egypt, or Hindus and Muslims in India.

Multi-confessionalism unites people and serves progress

 

What do secular laws say about interfaith unions?

The good news is that we are not in the Middle Ages, so religious prohibitions do not have legal power (for the most part). Nonetheless, people often must choose between relationships and faith. In Islam, for example, relationship with pagans, atheists, and agnostics is forbidden. Amish only interact with other Amish, and if they do not, they have to leave the community. Orthodox Judaism and Yazidism (the Kurdish religion) forbid any interreligious contact. By the way, in Lebanon and Israel, there are no civil marriages, only religious ones, which generally means major problems for interfaith relations. As a result, mixed-faith couples must relocate, change jobs, and marry in other countries at least twice as often as same-faith couples.

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Why is it important to talk about interfaith relations

There were only 7 major religious conflicts in the 20th century: between Pakistan and India, Serbia and Croatia, Nigeria and Lagos, China and Tibet, Palestine and Israel, Iran, and Ireland. Such conflicts not only kill people and destroy lives, but they also halt decades of progress: developed Iran became a dark realm of fundamentalism in 1979, and only 13 of Tibet's 6,000 temples have survived.

Multi-confessionalism, on the other hand, promotes human unity, cultural enrichment, and productive cooperation. How can we achieve world peace if we refuse to communicate with the world's population, just because their beliefs are different?

Look for similarities, not differences, in your religions, and focus on them. Make similarities the focus of your conversation

 

5 tips on how to build a relationship with a representative of another religion

  • Before communicating with someone of another faith, learn as much as you can about her taboos. Buddhists do not eat meat, Amish do not use microwave ovens, Jews observe kashrut, and elders absolutely need to be greeted in Hinduism. To avoid an awkward situation, learn at least the fundamental provisions. Clarify whether the person strictly follows all of the rules or doesn't really practice.
  • Religious quarrels lead nowhere. They always were the source of numerous conflicts. It is far more difficult to respect another's opinion and position than it is to demonstrate own superiority. But as a modern society, we need it. There's no need to try to persuade an adult.
  • Be prepared for differences. Even if they appear odd to you. Many religions develop habits: small rituals, gestures, or clothing elements. Even if you don't know anything about them, try to be respectful. Look for similarities, not differences, in your religions, and focus on them. Make similarities the focus of your conversation.
  • If you are an atheist, demonstrate respect for all existing religions. You might not understand it, but it's vital to many people. Everyone hopes to be loved, respected, and happy. Concentrate on topics unrelated to religion.
  • If you are looking to start a serious relationship with someone, talk about their religious rituals. Attending a service or a wedding can sometimes be sufficient to better understand both the essence of religion and your partner.
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