Bishops and imams team up for marriage guide
Christian pastors and Muslim imams have come together to draw up guidelines detailing advice on how to deal with inter-faith marriages.
Although marrying between faiths is entirely legal in Britain, couples often face resistance and hostility, both from family members and religious leaders. Occasionally both Muslims and Christians feel pressure to convert to another's faith.
The new guidelines by the Christian-Muslim forum reinforce the need for religious leaders to accept inter-faith marriages and warn that no one should ever feel forced to convert. The document, which will receive a high-profile launch at Westminster Abbey today, is supported by more orthodox Islamic imams as well as evangelical Christians.
Among those who have signed up to the document include Sheikh Ibrahim Mogra, from the conservative Deobandi school, the Right Rev Paul Hendricks, associate bishop of Southwark Catholic archdiocese, and Amra Bone, one of the only women in the UK to sit in a Sharia court.
Estimating the number of people in mixed-faith marriages is difficult. The 2001 UK census suggests 21,000 but demographers believe the figure is higher.
The document, called 'When Two Faiths Meet', is the product of months of negotiations and emphasises the need for tolerance and acceptance.
Among the recommendations are speaking out against forced conversions, recognising the legality of inter-faith marriages in British law, non-judgemental pastoral care and total rejection of any violence.
"It might sound a little like we are stating the obvious, but it does need to be said," Sheikh Ibrahim said. "Christian and Muslim couples often face very challenging scenarios where there is not enough tolerance or the right pastoral care."
"It's clearly already an issue and something that will become more and more common," the Leicester-based imam said.