"We are in dire need of a culture of dialogue"
The diggers will soon be rolling. For more than ten years the idea of a joint venue representing the three monotheistic religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – has been planned, discussed and promoted in Berlin.
Roland Stolte, administrative director of the "House of One" foundation, announced that the excavators are to start digging the foundations in just over two months, in January 2021. Thus, after some delays, most recently due to the coronavirus pandemic, the project in the heart of old Berlin is finally getting underway.
Stolte spoke at the first meeting of a 20-member board of trustees of the "House of One" foundation, which was chaired by Mayor Michael Muller (SPD). In addition to prominent representatives of the three religions, the 20 members include outstanding representatives of Berlin's cultural scene: the general manager of the Humboldt Forum, the director of the Jewish Museum, the director of the Deutsches Theater, the president of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, the director of the House of World Cultures. An unusual occurrence in the German capital, where religion and culture rarely have much contact.
"Where, if not here?"
Mayor Muller was "very enthusiastic about the idea" of the interfaith project. "Where, if not here?" he said. The "House of One" would enrich the city "greatly" as an opportunity for interaction and dialogue.
The project, the only one of its kind in the world, is located at the heart of the city, where the six-lane Leipziger Strasse between Alexanderplatz and Potsdamer Platz has been passing construction fences and wasteland for years. Once upon a time, this was the very centre of old Berlin, the place where the Petrikirche, important for the history of early Berlin, stood for over 700 years.
The prestigious building in the centre of Berlin will offer three rooms around a central meeting place. Towards the top, the building will rise 40 metres into the sky and thus be a symbol of togetherness.
Over the next five years, the archaeological remains of this place of worship will be transformed into a shared complex for Christians, Jews and Muslims, with a church, synagogue and mosque. Three rooms around a central meeting place. The building is to rise 40 metres into the sky, thus becoming a symbol of fellowship. The planned construction costs amount to 43.5 million euros and have already been largely secured.
Aftermath of bloody attacks
The board of trustees meeting took place virtually, "there was no nice setting, no reception," as Muller said. "But we didn't want to postpone it forever." Numerous short statements by members of the board of trustees revealed the urgency of the situation. Thoughtful contributions reflected equally on global conflicts and on the attacks in Dresden, Paris and Nice, where young Islamists murdered at random. Director of the Catholic Academy in Berlin, Joachim Hake, pleaded for genuine and open dialogue between the religions in friendship: "In view of the intensification of identity politics, we are in dire need of a culture of dialogue."
The Islamic theologian Mouhanad Khorchide from Munster hopes for theological impulses that would steer Islam away from its claim to exclusivity. Imam Kadir Sanchi of the "House of One" said that Muslims have a particular responsibility. Their religion has been "instrumentalised". The House of One wants to protect young people from extremism and promote preventive work. "We set mutual respect and charity against terror and violence," said the Berlin Rabbi Andreas Nachama, the most important Jewish cleric in the project.