ECCLESIA IN ASIA Agnes and Taufiq, family in Indonesia beyond religious barriers

She is a Christian and he is a Muslim, married for twenty years in a country where mixed marriages are not officially allowed. At the world meeting of families in Rome they gave their testimony: “We had to face a lot of resistance from the people around us. After three years of marriage I accepted Agnes’s decision to become Catholic again and from that moment on I also decided to accompany her to church”.

Vatican City () – Twenty years of life together in a mixed marriage, which continues to resist the difficulties posed by Indonesian society and the resistance of their families of origin. This is the story of Agnes Sandra Wigianti and Taufiq Hidayat. From Jakarta, the couple traveled to Rome these days to participate in the World Meeting of Families with the Indonesian delegation, to give their testimony on the issue of religious differences between spouses. Indeed, Taufiq is a Muslim while Agnes has been a Catholic since her birth. He is an engineer and she is a housewife, today they have two children aged 20 and 16, educated in the Christian religion.

The history of this family seems to have been born as that of an ordinary couple. They met through mutual friends and liked each other right away. “When I first saw my wife, I thought I would like to get to know her more. She knew that she was a Christian and I didn’t care that she was of another religion,” explains Taufiq. However, when the time came to get married, the two young people faced a problem: in Indonesia, it is not possible to enter into mixed marriages, but one of the spouses is required to renounce their religion. “My wife decided to convert to Islam and then my family accepted our marriage – continues Taufiq -. If we had stayed in different religions, we would never have been able to get married. So our experience is that our culture didn’t fully accept our marriage from the beginning.”

Once married, the couple settled in Jakarta, away from their family of origin. “After three years of marriage and having the second child, Agnes told me that she didn’t want to be a Muslim anymore and wanted to go back to being a Catholic, because she had been since she was born and it was important to her,” says Taufiq. That moment of the truth made their marriage undergo a change of pace.”I understood Agnes’s feelings and told her that we were talking about her personal relationship with God -continues the husband-. I accepted her decision and from that moment I also decided to accompany her to church”. Taufiq later agreed to educate his children in Christian values ​​and to attend Christian schools: “I have always valued the mission and education of Catholic schools, that is why we decided that they should be educated in Catholic schools. Thanks to education and example, my Children are open-minded people. For our part, we have always talked openly about our differences.”

At the World Meeting of the Taufiq and Agnes families they witnessed their daily reality: it is possible to live in a family where the spouse is of another religion.

“I looked for him because of his personality and not because of his religion,” explains Agnes, referring to her husband. We discussed together what to say in our intervention and the result was the text that was read during the session”. “I am really happy to be able to share my personal experience, although it is a very sensitive issue, especially in our country – reveals Taufiq -. In recent years, however, marriages of people of different religions have also increased in Indonesia (although the law does not officially allow it).”

Every Sunday the family goes to mass together, but Taufiq does not give up professing his religion, respecting his culture of origin, his family and also the important holidays, such as Ramadan. However, there are still difficulties -explains Taufiq- such as the distrust of the neighbors or the resistance of my family, who consider that Agnes is “afraid of conversion”. However, the most important thing is to find a way to move forward and grow together as a couple and as a family. “We needed a community to belong to and to support us, that’s why for some time we started attending a group called Weekend marriage encounter -explains the couple-. It is a reality in which couples of different religions participate and who meet during the weekend.

In mutual respect and understanding, therefore, lies the key to a life in peace. “I never look at religious beliefs but rather at the effect they have on people,” says Taufiq. I see my wife, her religiousness and her beautiful personality: that is something positive for me and for our children. She and I just have different perspectives on faith.”



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