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[Story] Photographer seeks to capture 100 interfaith couples who let 'love conquer'


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Toronto man is on a mission to capture the stories of interfaith relationships, one love story at a time.

For his newest project -- entitled Interlove -- photographer Colin Boyd Schafer is looking to photograph 100 couples come from different religions. So far, Schafer has photographed six couples who are balancing their beliefs in Judaism, Hinduism, Catholicism, Anglicanism, and even "staunch atheism."

Schafer gained fame last year when he photographed more than 190 Torontonians in a bid to capture portraits representing every country in the world.

The photographer says his latest project is centred on the idea of diversity and love overcoming differences.

"People who are letting love conquer that divide are great examples of communicators," Schafer said. "Surely we can all learn from that."

Samir and Najwa Dib's marriage is one of the relationships featured in Schafer's series. Samir is a Christian and Najwa is Muslim. For seven years, the couple, who met as children in Lebanon, kept their relationship a secret.

"It was not approved by my parents. For a Muslim girl to be in love with a Christian, it was not easy," Najwa said.

Today, the couple has been married for 42 years. They have three children who they raised both in churches and in mosques. Samir said he believes their story has important lessons for future generations.

"We are ahead of the game. We are an example," he said.

Joyce and Russell Pangborn also hope their story can encourage others. Russell is an atheist and Joyce is an Anglican who taught Sunday school while raising their children. The couple got engaged six weeks after they started dating, and have now been married for 36 years.

"It's what inside the person that counts, and religion doesn't dictate who they are, it's their actions," Russell said.

Like the Dibs and the Pangborns, Schafer said every other couple he has photographed has a unique story. To tell these stories, Schafer publishes three photos of the couples: one of the two of them interacting together, and one of each partner individually, gazing into the other's eyes.

Ultimately, Schafer wants to photograph 100 interfaith couples. But he needs the funding to do so. He set up a crowdfunding page to raise money to support the project.

As of Saturday, Schafer had raised more than $8,000. With $10,000, he said he can photograph couples around Ontario. And with $15,000, he would take the project across the country.

He said he believes Canada's diversity makes it the perfect country to showcase interfaith relationships that the rest of the world can also appreciate.

"Forget the interfaith thing, just people in love is a nice thing," he said. "I think we all like a good love story."

With files from CTV's Peter Akman

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There's a common saying that a picture says a thousand words. I think a thousand words would be wordy and unnecessary - and still wouldn't satisfactorily express the heart of a couple.

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The bible even says if you are married to "an unbeliever", who is agreeable to your believing, it's better to stay together (1 Corinthians 7). You can still have a good relationship and a strong marriage.

However, if you are looking for a wife/husband and religion is a serious part of your life, then it makes sense to try to find someone who feels similarly to partner with. A common value is far easier to work with.

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