How do children affect interfaith marriages

Reflections on interreligious dialogue in the family

In Hamm there was a citizens' initiative against the construction of the Hindu temple. The call to prayer of the muezzin from the minaret of the mosque has sparked explosions in several places. A clarifying word from professionals is necessary. But everyday coexistence also creates problems that one would like to use professional help to solve. One would like to receive expert guidance in acquiring specialist knowledge, one would like to receive guidance on site in community groups or as a parent group in a kindergarten or school. Increasingly, however, one would also like to acquire one's own judgment and action competence in order to be able to offer the children direct guidance in a multicultural world.

Christianity and the world religion

The world religions all claim to proclaim the true God, to offer people salvation and to guide them to right morality. What does Christian theology say about the competing claims?

Basic decisions

One answer is: Christianity and foreign religions behave like truth and lies. Christianity's claim to absoluteness is combined with a blatant rejection of other religions. In the last century, this point of view was mainly represented by the so-called dialectical theology, the head of which was the Swiss theologian Karl Barth.

The second Vatican Council (1962-1965) has redefined itself. The requested ratio determination was carried out in a scheme of concentric rings. The inner circle represents the Roman Catholic Church. She has the highest possible degree of truth and sanctification. In concentric rings with a steady decline in truth and sanctification follow Orthodoxy, the other non-Catholic churches, the high religions, led by Judaism and Islam, finally all other religions and all of the rest of humanity. The idea is to complement it.

Finally, there is another idea that is currently more widespread among religious scholars than among theologians: the one deity, of whom no one can say what it is in and of itself, has made itself known in many ways. The one God (so we can also say) is itself the cause of the diversity of religions. The fact that human factors have always played a part, that there have been distortions and embezzlement from the outset - also in Christianity - needs to be taken into account in this view. Despite the remaining difficulties, this ratio determination has the advantage that representatives of all religions take each other seriously and can see each other as in principle equal, which increases the willingness to dialogue immensely.

The three points of view are mutually exclusive. You have to confess to one. The author favors the third model, but also points out that he does not want to jeopardize his Christian identity. In participating in interfaith dialogue, it is important at all times that he worships God as the Father of Jesus Christ. With this prerequisite, he can then seriously accept the possibility that there are other self-testifications of God.

On the special position of Judaism

The God that Jesus of Nazareth called “Father” is not an everyday God. He is the god of the patriarchs, the liberator from Egypt, the lawgiver on Sinai, the god of kings and prophets (by the way, all of this after the one god had been recognized in various biblical self-testifications). Jesus lived in the Jewish tradition; he prayed the prayers of his people and celebrated the festivals of Judaism. He was so indigenous to the world of Old Testament thought that he was rightly counted among the theological teachers and called a rabbi.

To interreligious dialogue

In the area of ​​different responsibilities - between scientists, between official religious representatives, at the level of informal groups - there is already an interreligious dialogue. In school lessons and in family religious socialization, too, the need for such a dialogue is increasingly recognized and the willingness to participate within the scope of one's own possibilities grows.


The Congress of World Religions, which met in Chicago in 1993, provided a strong impetus. Subsequently, a council worked and in 1998, half a century after the UN Declaration of Human Rights, published a Universal Declaration of Human Duties, which bears eloquent testimony to the fact that humanity needs a binding global ethic that is not about rights, but about Highlights duties.


At the Congress of Religions in Chicago the following logic prevailed: No peace in the world without peace of religions - No peace of religions without dialogue between religions - No dialogue between religions without knowledge of religions.

Under the leadership of Hans Küng, Parliament issued a declaration on the Global Ethic on September 4th, 1998 (available from the Global Ethic Foundation, Waldhäuser Str. 23, D-72076 Tübingen). The four instructions are:

  1. Commitment to a culture of nonviolence and awe of life
  2. Commitment to a culture of solidarity and a just economic order
  3. Commitment to a culture of tolerance and a life of truthfulness
  4. Commitment to a culture of equality and partnership between men and women.


While maintaining their identities, all should strive for peace and reconciliation; they should learn to understand each other better in order to be able to respect each other even better. But I would also like to remind you of the warning repeatedly issued by Carl-Heinz Ratschow that religion should not be viewed from the point of view of usefulness.

The question of God in family education: concretions

The question of the truth content of belief in God in the great foreign religions must be seen in the context of the challenges of our time.

Concretions in the family upbringing process

Before we ask in the face of the colorful diversity of religious life what is acceptable or understandable, what seems tolerable and what is to be rejected, we turn to the question, on the answer of which everything depends, the question of correct belief in God. We should not answer this question to the children before they are asked. But it is asked over and over again, forcefully and precisely. "Is Allah also God of love?" - “Who does my Muslim friend pray to?” - “Do Hindus worship statues, are they idolaters?” - “If everyone believes in God, do I have to be a Christian at all?”

The catalog can be expanded at will, but thank God there is a basic pattern for finding correct answers that can be derived from the theoretical part of this essay:

  • If God interprets himself in many ways, then all religions have the right to speak of knowledge of God, from which they derive their way of worshiping God.
  • At the same time there is: Nobody is allowed to make their belief in God absolute and reject or relativize the point of view of others.
  • As Christians, we hold to the fact that for us God is the Father of Jesus Christ. The truth that we admit to others must not change or weaken that.
  • Peaceful interreligious dialogue enables participants to be flexible. They should not give up their own religious identity, but they should get involved in the teaching and practice of others in the conviction that they can even examine their own point of view in serious dialogue. Above all, prejudices can be broken down.

If we apply this basic pattern to the questions given as examples, the answers are (in a general sense):

  • Allah is not a proper name like Aton, Odin or Vishnu. Allah means God. Muslims worship the one God. But they do not believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that is, God is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. But that's exactly what we're sticking to.
  • This also answers the question of the Muslim friend. It should also be added that Christians and Muslims can pray to God together, despite their not identical ideas about God, e.g. at funerals, interreligious prayers for peace, in the context of interreligious dialogue and when participating in the worship service of the other religion.
  • From the Hindus, when we talk to them, we can learn that they do not worship statues. The statues are sheaths into which, according to Hindu belief, the heavenly ones enter when the priest calls them. After proper preparation, experience shows that Christians and even open-minded Muslims can take part in Hindu worship ceremonies.
  • Jewish people pray to the God Jesus called his Father, even if they reject Jesus' claim. The reverse is true: Christians pray to the God who reveals himself in the Holy Scriptures of the Jews, our Old Testament, as creator of the world, as liberator, as lawgiver and as judge.
  • We can be Christians, or Jews, or Muslims, or Hindus, or Buddhists. But the jack-of-all-trades must not exist in all religions. Respect and empathy when participating in foreign services and customs do not necessarily mean belonging to the foreign religion.

Here are three more questions for the parents:

  1. Can you prevent your child from changing religion or becoming a jack-of-all-trades in any other way than by raising them to be a practicing Christian and being aware of your necessary role model function?
  2. Don't you also believe that an understanding of other religions requires a home in your own?
  3. Shouldn't the famous “Higher Being”, in which everyone supposedly believes, be replaced by a concrete conception of God?

Customs, festivals and celebrations

At every turn, children are confronted with the customs of foreign religions. Of course, we must not forget that non-Christian children are not spared a confrontation with Christian customs. Primarily caused by childhood friendships, children get to know festivals and celebrations of foreign religions. Christian parents often allow their children to be invited by non-Christians and in turn invite children who belong to a foreign religion. In extreme cases, invitations to church services are even issued.

A few examples from the multitude of questions that children are seriously concerned about: “My parents don't think it's good that you hang crosses everywhere and make the sign of the cross,” says an Islamic child in a Christian family. “If my friend Aischa always wears a headscarf, then I always want to wear a headscarf,” shouts a Christian girl. Further questions: "Why is Mehmet allowed to hear the biblical stories in kindergarten and Mustapha not?" "Why are we not allowed to eat pork in the presence of Turkish guests at our birthday party?" "Isn't it good when the group leader tells us about foreign religions in kindergarten?" "Can I take part in the sugar festival and give something to Meltem?" “They slaughtered a sheep in the street. Isn't that terrible? " “Mehmet said that boys are above girls. Is that correct?"

As with the question of God, there is also a basic pattern for gaining correct answers that can be derived from the theoretical part of the problem area “customs / festivals / celebrations”. What are the reasons for this:

  • that we largely get involved in what is strange and, on our part, openly invite people to join in?
  • that we tolerate something without agreeing?
  • that we reject something and maybe even fight it?

In any case, it is legitimate to include concerns about the Christian identity of our children.

If we again apply the basic pattern to the questions named above as examples, the answers could be (analogously):

  • The cross is the central symbol of the Christian faith. We don't need to hide it because it offends people of other religions. It should of course be taken for granted that Christians do not want to provoke with the cross and do not want to impose the message of the cross on anyone.
  • As for the headscarf: If identifications with girlfriends or boyfriends also mean a belief in a foreign religion, in this case Islam, they must be forbidden. Muslims are not forbidden from wearing the headscarf (although it may be problematized in a partnership discussion), but Christians are not allowed to make their Christianity appear questionable.
  • Some Muslims see closer proximity to the Christian faith than others; some are freer and broader than the others. Some also don't really think about it. The Hammer Hindu priest, who really cultivates an inclusive thinking, sends his children to an evangelical kindergarten and lets them participate fully in the religious life there.
  • We are really not making a Christian creed by eating pork. If we have members of other religions as guests, then decency dictates that we take their dietary rules into consideration.
  • Getting to know other religions is important. It should be imparted knowledgeably, age-appropriately and in consultation with all those involved in the educational process. Nobody should renounce their concern for their Christian identity.
  • The festival of breaking the fast, known by the Turks as the Sugar Festival, is a beautiful, happy festival to which our children should be invited. Since it is also a festival of giving, presents are popular. When participating in other festivals, it must be checked on a case-by-case basis what we, members of foreign religions, can expect with invitations to Christian festivals and celebrations. In general, members of Indian religions have fewer problems in this regard than Jews and Muslims.
  • If we - except in organized discussions - do not fundamentally problematize the slaughtering process, we should condemn the repulsive (and at the same time probably unlawful) slaughtering on the street.
  • If we on the Christian side stand up for equality and partnership between the sexes, then this standpoint must also be held up to representatives of other religions. This applies to the man-woman relationship and the boy-girl relationship. However, we do not yet have to talk into the family life of Muslims and Hindus. In interreligious dialogue, however, there are no taboo subjects, and that is why we will also advocate gender equality there.


  • Büscher, Hans: The diversity of religions and the unity of God, in: Manfred Büttner and Frank Richter (eds.): Relationships between religion (mental attitude) and the scientific environment (theology, natural science and music) Frankfurt / M. 1999.
  • Büscher, Susanne: Tasks and Chances of Religious Education in Modern Kindergarten, Dissertation Dortmund 1999.
  • Tahar ben Jelloun: Dad, what is Islam? Conversation with my children. Berlin 2002.
  • Tworuschka, Monika: Visiting the religions of the world. A journey of discovery for parents and children. Freiburg 2000.


Dr. Hans Büscher, born on May 3rd, 1929 in Hamm, pastor retired, doctor of theology (Prize of the Wilhelms-Universität Münster), supplementary examination in the subject “Religious Studies”, study of philosophy and pedagogy, teaching permit for both subjects, many years of diverse teaching experience ( University, secondary school, grammar school, vocational college)


Dr. Hans Büscher
Ginsterweg 15
59069 Hamm, Germany

Created on February 10, 2003, last changed on March 23, 2010