Agnes and Taufiq, family in Indonesia across religious barriers
A Christian and Muslim, married for 20 years in a country where officially mixed marriages are not allowed. At the World Meeting of Families in Rome they brought their testimony, "We had to face a lot of resistance from those around us. After three years of marriage I accepted Agnes' choice to become Catholic again, and from that moment I also decided to accompany her to church."
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Twenty years of life together in a mixed marriage that continues to withstand the difficulties of Indonesian society and the resistance of their families of origin: this is the story of Agnes Sandra Wigianti and Taufiq Hidayat. The couple flew to Rome from Jakarta to attend the World Meeting of Families with the delegation from Indonesia to give their testimony on the issue of religious differences between spouses. Taufiq is in fact a Muslim, while Agnes has been Catholic since birth. He an engineer and she a housewife, today they have two children, ages 20 and 16, educated in the Christian faith.
The story of this family seems to begin as that of an ordinary married couple: introduced by mutual friends, the two immediately liked each other. "When I first met my wife, I thought I would like to get to know her better. I knew she was a Christian and didn't care that she was from another religion," Taufiq explains.
However, when it came time to get married, the two young people were faced with a problem: mixed marriages are not possible in Indonesia, it is required that one of the couple renounce their religion. "My wife decided to convert to Islam, and so my family also accepted our marriage," Taufiq continues. "If we had remained of different religions, we could never have married. So our experience is that our culture from the beginning did not fully accept our marriage."
Once married, the couple settled in Jakarta, away from their family of origin. "After three years of marriage and after we had our second child, Agnes told me that she did not want to continue being Muslim and wanted to go back to being Catholic, because she had been since she was born and it was important to her," Taufiq says. This moment of truth caused their life as a couple to undergo a profound change.
"I understood Agnes' feelings and told her that her personal relationship with God was being questioned," the man continues. "I accepted her choice and also decided from that moment on to accompany her to church." Taufiq then agreed to educate his children in Christian values and have them attend Christian schools, "I have always appreciated the mission and education of Catholic schools, so we decided to have them educated in Catholic schools. Thanks to family upbringing and example, my children are open-minded people. On our side, we have always talked openly about our differences."
At the World Meeting of Families Taufiq and Agnes testified to their daily reality: it is possible to live in a family where one spouse is of another religion.
"I sought him out because of his personality and not because of his faith," Agnes explained, referring to her husband. "We discussed together what to say during our talk and came up with the text that was read during the session. "I am really happy to be able to share my personal experience, even though it is a very sensitive topic, especially in our country," Taufiq reveals. "However, in recent years, marriages of people with different faiths are also increasing in Indonesia (despite the fact that 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 home culture, his family, and even important holidays, such as Ramadan. The difficulties, however remain, Taufiq explains, such as the mistrust of neighbors or the resistance of the family, which considers Agnes "afraid of conversion." What matters, however, is finding ways to move forward and grow together as a couple and as a family. "We needed a community to belong to and to support us, and so for some time now we have been attending a group called Weekend marriage encounter," the couple explain. "It is a reality in which couples of different faiths participate and meet on weekends.
The key to a peaceful life lies in respect and mutual understanding. "I never look at the type of religious beliefs, but what they produce in people," says Taufiq. "I see my wife, her religiosity and her beautiful personality; it is something positive for me and for our children. She and I just have different perspectives about faith."
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