When Michelle and Yusef chose to embark on life together as a married couple, some things were sure to become a little complicated.
For Michelle, an Australian-born Christian, and Yusef, a Muslim, one of their first experiences of balancing two different religious traditions was deciding how they would get married. And more specifically, who would conduct the service.
Uniting Church minister Rev Helen Richmond tells their story in her new book.
The book is inspired by her own multifaith family. Helen was studying theology in Indonesia in the late 1970s and early 1980s when she met her husband Bendut, who came from Indonesian Muslim heritage. He later took the decision to convert to Christianity, but their family embodies the diversity of religious and cultural traditions of which she writes.
The couples Helen interviewed for Blessed and Called to be a Blessing represent a wide range of experiences. A small number of marriages did not last, others faced disapproval or rejection from their families or communities, and many found the experience of living together renewed and deepened their faith.
The wisdom found within their stories lies in how participants were able to reflect on their own faith and reimagine some of their religious understandings.
Coming to recognise that God might work in their life partner in different ways led participants to consider the question of whether religious diversity reflects God’s purposes.
A major component of the research for the book was identifying different approaches to religious diversity, particularly with respect to an individual’s religious understanding of Christian mission or in Islam the concept of da’wah.
Interestingly, most couples took an approach that focused on shared actions for the betterment of humanity. They connected with each other by recognising Christianity and Islam’s common focus on kindness, goodness and integrity.
It is Helen’s hope that readers will come away encouraged to take journeys of friendship with people of other faiths.
Blessed and Called to be a Blessing is a powerful and positive insight into how human relationships are challenged by and can transcend our notions of the religious other.
Blessed and Called to be a Blessing can be purchased from Regnum books ocms.ac.uk/regnum
Communications and resource officer,
Uniting Faith and Discipleship, NSW/ACT Synod