13 October 2014

For interfaith families, evangelization is a two-way street

The Extraordinary Synod for the Family has begun, and like all Asian Catholics I am hoping our concerns will be adequately represented in this predominantly Western gathering.

Of the 14 couples who have been invited, there are two each from the United States and Italy, three from Africa, two from South America, and one each from Iraq, Lebanon, Australia and France. Asia is represented by a couple from the Philippines, a country that is about 82 percent Catholic, a reality so different from other Asian countries where Christians form a tiny minority — less than 1 percent in Japan and Pakistan, and 2.3 percent in India. This demographic is important because it gives rise to a challenge peculiar to most Asian countries — interfaith marriages. In some parts of India they account for more than 50 percent of the marriages celebrated in Church. The Japanese bishops have cited a figure as high as 76 percent.

While Christians have always been a minority in Asia, the increase in interfaith marriages is a recent development. Among the primary reasons for this increase are the education of women and their entry into the workforce across all economic strata. Universities and workplaces provide multi-religious spaces that offer opportunities for intimate relationships across traditional boundaries. More, women with the self-confidence that comes with their growing earning capacity are making independent decisions. Added to this is the overall distancing from religion.