“Ask a Priest: What If My Friend’s Kin Wouldn’t Accept a Hindu In-law?”

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Q Hi, I’m from India and I’m a Hindu. I’m in love with this Christian girl. She also loves me. But whenever I ask her if we will get together, she says it won’t happen. It’s because of her family. They wouldn’t be happy to hear of an interreligious marriage. She hasn’t told her about this. But she says that they will say “no,” and I do believe her. She is from a big family and even if her parents agree, her relatives won’t be satisfied. She fears all these. The thing is that, I love her so much that I can’t think about living without her. If this marriage won’t happen, well then, clearly this is an example of a situation where religion is separating people. I believe that religions are meant to unite people, not separate them. Please do help me find a solution. Thank you. – A.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: You are discovering that religion can, in fact, be a big source of separation and tension.

Religion (at least from the Christian perspective) is about God, first and foremost. He is at the center of our lives. Religion is not about ignoring differences in belief for the sake of “peace.”

Now, we believe that God revealed certain things about himself; most importantly, he sent his Son Jesus to suffer and die for our redemption. I can respect that not everyone believes that. For it does take faith for a person to accept Christ.

The complication with an interreligious marriage is when a wife believes one thing and the husband believes something very different. This can lead to very difficult marriages. After all, after the glow of the honeymoon ends, a husband and a wife need to journey together through hard times as well as good times. And if each one of them believes differently as regards where life’s meaning is to be found, that can make for a very, very rough journey.

For now, it seems that you might have to face the reality that your friend’s family would not be happy with an interreligious marriage. This could be the source of lifelong conflict and tension.

It is good to recognize, however, that religion can be a great source of unity. It probably helps to unite your friend’s family, just as it might help to unite your family.

It is also good to recognize that marriage has a strong communal dimension. It doesn’t just involve the man and woman. It involves the whole network of each person’s family and friends.

Certainly it might be difficult to lose this young woman. But perhaps it might be good to think in terms of the long run. Would you and she really be happy, if there was a lot of unresolvable tension over religion among the wider family? Then, too, there is the chance that your children might be confused about religion if they see mom and dad with very different faiths.

I can’t offer any easy solutions, short of your converting to Christianity. But that is something you should only do out of conviction, not convenience.

Perhaps this whole situation is something you and your friend need to speak about more. It sounds as though you and she will have to make a decision sooner than later. Count on my prayers.

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