The House of One project was designed by the Kuehn-Malvezzi agency after an international architectural competition.
Christians, Muslims and Jews laid the foundation stone of a common place of worship in Berlin on Thursday, a project presented as unique in the world, which comes at a time of heightened tensions between religious communities due to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The imam, the pastor and the rabbi of the House of one wanted to see in the laying of this foundation stone “an important step towards the completion of our inter-religious peace project”, in the words of Rabbi Andreas Nachama.
Ten years after the conception of this project, the construction of this vast building, located on the Museum Island in the center of Berlin, must last four years. The start of construction was planned for last year but had to be postponed due to the pandemic. The building was designed by the Berlin firm Kuehn-Malvezzi, which was selected after an international competition.
The mosque, the synagogue and the Protestant church will be linked by a large common hall where events and celebrations can also be held together.
The imam, the pastor and the rabbi of the “House of one” said short prayers before symbolic objects of the three religions of the Book were cast in concrete. The project, estimated at 47 million euros, is partly financed by the German government and the City of Berlin.
A participatory and donation campaign has also been launched to raise the remaining 8 million euros. Germany has a majority of Christians, including many Protestants, but also a large Muslim community estimated at between 5.3 and 5.6 million believers, or 6.4 to 6.7% of the population.
A place of peace and security
The “joy linked (…) to this unique peace project of religions grows with each stone that will be laid,” rejoiced Pastor Gregor Hohberg before the ceremony. “For us, it is a step forward full of symbolism,” assured the imam of the future mosque Kadir Sanci. “In these times of polarization of opinions and attitudes” that “cast a long shadow on the world, the House of one embodies the constructive spirit of faith and spirituality,” he added. He also saw in this place of worship of the three monotheistic religions “a place of peace and security”, “a praise of difference” while tensions between Jews and Muslims have been high in Germany in recent weeks due to the resumption of the armed Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The mayor of Berlin, Michael Müller, also denounced in a speech at the ceremony “hatred, violence, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, racism and incitement to racial hatred” which “have no place in our society. “It is quite normal and even important that in the German capital, dramatic global conflicts can be discussed,” he assured, while rejecting any form of violence.
Israeli flags have been burned and anti-Semitic slogans uttered at pro-Palestinian rallies in Germany in recent weeks. Chancellor Angela Merkel warned on Saturday against racist or anti-Semitic outbursts during demonstrations in support of the Palestinian cause. “Those who bring hatred against Jews in the street, those who incite racial hatred, are outside our fundamental law,” she had chastised, after violent outbursts during a rally in Berlin. About 60 people were arrested and a hundred police officers injured.
Decimated by the Holocaust, the Jewish community is now one of the most dynamic in Europe, thanks to the arrival in the 1990s of more than 200,000 Jews from the former Soviet Union to whom Germany has opened its doors. It is currently estimated that there are approximately 225,000 Jews, the third largest community in Europe after France and Great Britain.