Already 10 years in the planning, the new religious center in the German capital will serve the three Abrahamic religions.
By Paul Shindman, World Israel News
A new religious center that will accommodate Jews, Christians and Muslims under the same roof is set to begin construction this spring, The Guardian newspaper reported Sunday.
“The House of One” will house a synagogue, a church and a mosque under the same roof on the site of a church that was damaged in fighting in World War II and then torn down by the communist regime that ruled the eastern part of the city until the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1991.
A cornerstone-laying ceremony is planned for May 27 to launch the expected four-year construction project for the new building that has been dubbed a “churmosquagogue,” located in Petriplatz in the heart of Berlin.
The German architectural firm Kuehn Malvezzi won the design competition for the religious center that was held back in 2014, but it apparently has taken the intervening years to put the funding together for the €47 million ($57 million) project for the three houses of worship linked to a central meeting space where people of other faiths or non-religious will also be invited to attend events.
“The idea is pretty simple,” Roland Stolte, a Christian theologian who helped start the project, told The Guardian. “We wanted to build a house of prayer and learning, where these three religions could co-exist while each retaining their own identity.”
Rabbi Andreas Nachama is the Jewish representative partnering with a pastor and imam on the project.
“There are many different ways to God, and each is a good way,” Rabbi Nachama said, adding that in the House of One, Christians, Muslims and Jews would worship separately but would visit each other for religious holidays, commemorations and celebrations.
“It is more than a symbol. It is the start of a new era where we show there is no hate between us,” Rabbi Nachama said.
The architecture advocacy website UrbanNext says Petriplatz is known as a religious area in the city center that has hosted five different churches dating back to the early Middle Ages. The House of One will be built on the site of St Peter’s church, which suffered heavy damage in the war.
Stolte said that rather than a new church or a memorial on the same site, there was a push for something different.
“We wanted to create a new kind of sacred building that mirrors Berlin today,” Stolte said. “The initiators are acting as placeholders. This is not a club for monotheistic religions – we want others to join us.”
Government funding is providing over half of the cost, with another €9 million coming from donations. Fundraising continues for the final €8 million needed to finish the project.
Stolte said the concept has received general support by faith communities and the public, but added that the planners wanted to reach out to non-religious Germans because “East Berlin is a very secular place. Religious institutions have to find new language and ways to be relevant, and to make connections.”