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The Jakarta Post
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Inter-religious marriages uphill battle for couples

  • The Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Sat, August 21 2010 | 11:23 am

Even though many say love knows no boundaries, couples in the city are bound by the fact that they will have to face challenges if their loves are of different faiths.

Gracia Febriane, 23, a mother of a 9-month-old baby who has been married since June last year, is still struggling for marriage blessings from her family.

“I am from a Christian family but I have converted to Islam since dating my husband,” Gracia told The Jakarta Post.

Her family now prohibits her from returning home to their house in Lampung. “They despise me because of my decision to marry someone with a different faith. They wish I would have married my ex-boyfriend, who has the same religion as theirs,” she said.

The challenges that she and her partner have been experiencing, are not only from Grace’s family.

Many of her husband’s family members, including his parents, who are of Betawi ethnicity and hold strictly to their Islamic traditions, also have refused to give their blessing.

“Gladees [her baby] hasn’t seen her grandmothers since she was born because they refuse to see us.”

Her husband often leaves her and their baby for days because of work. “Even though I know my husband loves me so much, such a condition make me sad, and sometimes I regret my decision to have a baby before marriage,” Grace said.

Grace was pregnant for several months before she was married to convince both families they were serious about the couple’s relationship. Unfortunately this did not produce a result.

The couple’s marriage was conducted at the Religious Affairs Office without the presence of their families as witnesses.

“I am not asking for a great banquet but I envy those couples who have the presence of their entire families during their marriage ceremonies.”

Another story regarding interfaith relationships comes from a veterinarian. I Nyoman Denny, from a Hindu family, has fallen in love twice with girls of different faiths to him.

“My first relationship crashed. Even though our families had no problems with our relationship, both of us were strong willed to hold firmly to our faiths and we realized that the condition would cause us trouble in the future since our nation prohibits interfaith marriage,” Denny, 28, said.

The 1974 regulation on marriage only legalizes married couples from the same faith. As a result, one usually converts and follows their significant other’s faith.

Denny now has a long-distance relationship with another Muslim girl, now is living in Manado.

“She is willing to convert to Hindu so that we can further our relationship by getting married. However, we are still facing challenges from her family,” he said.

Catholic Priest Benny Susetyo, an advocate for human rights, who is also a founder of the Institute for Democracy and Peace, said that the marriage law had created a new type of fear among citizens.

“Before the law was issued, people still considered interfaith marriage or relationships as usual and was nothing that needed fussing over,” he said.

Effendy Bachtiar, an analyst of Syarif Hidyatullah Islamic University, agreed with Benny.

“Interfaith relationships are hard to avoid because Indonesia is a country with people from different backgrounds,” he said. (rch)


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