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Inter-faith marriage:where will the children go?

By Vision Reporter

Added 4th April 2008 03:00 AM

TIME check: 9:30am. Josephine Nabutono, 38, takes a final look at herself in the mirror. Her hair is neatly done and her dress looks smart. She calls to her nine-year-old daughter and four-year-old son and together they head for church.

TIME check: 9:30am. Josephine Nabutono, 38, takes a final look at herself in the mirror. Her hair is neatly done and her dress looks smart. She calls to her nine-year-old daughter and four-year-old son and together they head for church.

By Rehema Aanyu

TIME check: 9:30am. Josephine Nabutono, 38, takes a final look at herself in the mirror. Her hair is neatly done and her dress looks smart. She calls to her nine-year-old daughter and four-year-old son and together they head for church.

Nabutono, a staunch Catholic and Musa Kiwatule, a devout Muslim, tied the knot in 1999. They resolved to raise the children in their different faiths. So every Sunday, their son and daughter accompany mummy to church and on Fridays, they go with daddy to the mosque. The children also attend Sunday school and madrasas (Islamic religious school) respectively.

“Being from different faiths, we decided to raise our children in both the religions so that when they become of age, they are informed enough to choose what they would like to follow,” explains Nabutono.

When people from different faiths marry or decide to have a family, the most pressing challenge they face is the religion their children should profess.

The religious makeup of an inter-faith family is such that children may be brought up in the religion of the mother, the father, or both parents. Otherwise, no religion may be practiced in the home.

John Bitalegwa, a psychologist, advises that inter-faith parents should choose a religious identity for their children and that the choice should be made early — when the child is still young or even before the child is born.

“If a couple plans to have children, they should decide even before marriage what religion the child will follow, what religious holidays they will observe and how they will relate to their families,” he says.

What about giving children the best of both worlds and letting them choose? Bitalegwa says this is unfair to the children because it is asking them to choose between mummy and daddy.

“In such instances, the child rebels and chooses another religion, different from the mum’s and dad’s,” he says.

A number of religious leaders and social workers, as well as parents, agree that for the spiritual stability and health of a child, he or she should be raised in the religion of one parent, while respect for the other parent’s religion is stressed. But most recently, parents in inter-faith marriages choose to raise their children in more than one religion so that the children choose their own religion once they are of age.

“Religion is an identity that everyone embraces. Different religions have different ideologies, rituals, norms and perspectives towards life. Raising a child in more than one religion leads to spiritual confusion and in most cases, the child loses trust in their parents and in religion,” argues Pastor Mande Kawooya of Divine Miracle Center in Kawaala.

He adds that this also causes tension in the marriage. Depending on the parents’ different personalities, Kawooya says one’s religious beliefs may override the other’s, leading to conflict.

“Children usually look up to their parents for answers. Now in instances where both parents practice different faiths, whose truth does the child take?” he asks.

Winnie Wesonga, a professional counsellor with Family Life Network equates it to building a house using different building materials.

“The foundation does not stand. When raising children in an inter-faith marriage, it is important for parents to ask themselves, what kind of child they want at the end of the day. Religion is a very confusing thing even for some adults. What about to a child who sees their parents serving different ‘Gods’?” she asks.

Wesonga says being the first blackboards of their children, parents should meet their children’s physical, intellectual, emotional, sexual and spiritual needs.

“Children have a natural spirituality. If they do not learn about religion from their parents, they will pick something up from the media and will be left to their own resources and create their own ideas,” she says.

She adds that to avoid this, parents in inter-faith marriages should start their children in one faith and when they are older, they should be left to decide on what religion to practice.

“For the sake of the child’s spiritual stability and health, there are only two options when you and your spouse practice different religions. One of you may choose to convert to the other religion. If not, make compromises and find ways to practice the more important elements of both religions prior to marriage.”

Inter-faith marriage:where will the children go?

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