In Berlin, a rabbi, an imam and a priest walk into a building. They go to their respective rooms of worship, and meet in the courtyard for a discussion on interfaith cooperation. But there’s no punch line here. Rather, concrete plans are underway for a large, interfaith house of worship that will bring the three major Abrahamic faiths, Judiaism, Christianity and Islam under one roof for the first time in European history.
The Building of One was originally thought up by Protestant parish priest Gregor Hohberg. The land this multi-religious house will inhabit was once home to Berlin’s first church. Although it was destroyed after WWII, when a team went excavating, they found remnants of an incredibly old cemetery. This gave rise to the idea that a building representing all monotheistic faiths should be built in its place.
The other two religious representatives of the project, Rabbi Tovia Ben Chorin and Imam Kadir Sanci, see this as an important step in uniting interfaith dialogue in Berlin’s large multi-cultural community.
An architecture competition was held to decide on the final design for the project. The winner, Wilfried Kuehn, noted that while his team was researching religious designs, they found plenty of architectural similarities between Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Each religious room shares the exact same amount of space, and accommodates the needs of all worshipers. In the mosque and synagogue, there are two levels due to their nature of worship. In the church, there is an organ.
To access the houses of worship requires people to enter and exit through a central meeting building. Here the religious leaders plan to host talks and question and answer sessions for those curious about religious similarities and resolving interfaith issues within the city.
The winning design for the House of One meeting place
For Rabbi Chorin, he sees it as a symbolic step for Berlin. In a country where “Jewish suffering was planned,” this is a great way to expose how these three monotheistic religions shaped the continent of Europe. “For me,” he said, “Berlin is about remembrance and rebirth.”
While some were skeptical as to how the three religious leaders would get on, according to them there have been very few issues. While some people within each faith has a hard time getting along with one another, Rabbi Chorin explains, “You have to start somewhere.”
This will be the first time in European history that these three faiths have shared one roof, and if the 60 billion dollar project is successful, will likely lead to more buildings of its kind around the continent.
Imam Kadir Sanci praised the House of One, calling it a place where Muslims can feel at home within the city. “A place where we are taken seriously – in the way we interpret and observe our religion, and…be part of a fruitful exchange with the city and other religions.”
Festivals will also make this a lively and inclusive place for those who choose to come. All religious festivals, including Easter, Eid, and Hanukkah will all be celebrated at the House of One.
Fundraising is still taking place on the building, and the three faiths have turned to crowdfunding to help take on the effort. However, the leaders are committed to this being a faith-based community effort, rather than some project financed by dogmatic religious institutions. Because of this, they’ve put a donation cap in place. Nobody is allowed to buy into more than 1% of the total cost (about 430,000 Euros) and nobody is allowed to curry special favor.
Those donating are encouraged to own a ‘brick’ of the building, for a small 10 Euro donation.
Pastor Hohberg is confident this building, and it’s commitments to the various religious communities within the city, will be an important step for Berlin. “This house will become home to equality, peace and reconciliation.” And if these three religious men get their way, they will be creating an example that cities around the globe can follow.