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Guidelines on inter-faith marriages

Christian pastors and Muslim imams have been issued with a new set of guidelines to help handle a growing number of inter-faith marriages in Britain.

The Christian Muslim Forum has advised against pressuring people to convert in a new set of ethical principles designed to help avoid conflict when couples from different faiths get married.

A report from the forum said census data from 2001 showed there were 21,396 Christian-Muslim couples in England and Wales with this number believed to have grown since then.

"The rising numbers of inter-faith marriages in the UK mean that for increasing numbers of people in the UK 'the other faith' is not remote, but includes members of the family," the forum said in a report.

"Welcomed by many as a positive sign of growing cohesion between people of different faiths and ethnicities in Britain, inter-faith relationships remain problematic for some families and communities of faith and can precipitate family crisis and other outcomes associated with shame and fear, with potentially harmful outcomes for individuals, couples and families."

The advice includes "non judgmental" care for couples and the use of "loving" language which avoids blame and conflict. Couples in faith-based marriages have also been advised to legally register their unions.

Julian Bond, director of the Christian Muslim Forum, said: "Couples in inter-faith relationships often don't know where to turn.

"Meanwhile, imams and ministers are often not trained to respond to the increasing numbers of people turning to them."

Heather al-Yousuf, 51, a counsellor from Oxford, and an Anglican married to a Muslim, said: "These relationships are happening and in Britain they are the natural outcome of a mixed society.

"In many ways they are something to celebrate."

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