This must surely be a first. Religious buildings have often changed hands, some churches becoming mosques, mosques becoming churches, temples becoming mosques and sometimes this has been the cause of continued tension and even violence in some parts of the world. Initiatives to have three places of worship on the same campus are not unknown. Now, though, for the first time there is a deliberate plan to have three places of worship under one roof. And this is to happen in the heart of Berlin, a city tainted by the memory of the worst kind of religious hatred and violence. This is religious history in the making and a sign of what relationships between the faiths could be.
Rabbi Tovia Ben Chorin told the BBC "From my Jewish point of view the city where Jewish suffering was planned is now the city where a centre is being built by the three monotheistic religions which shaped European culture," and the Imam involved Kadir Sanci, sees the House of One as "a sign, a signal to the world that the great majority of Muslims are peaceful and not violent". It's also, he says, a place where different cultures can learn from each other. Christian pastor involved in the project, Pastor Gregor Hohberg, said "Under one roof: one synagogue, one mosque, one church. We want to use these rooms for our own traditions and prayers. And together we want to use the room in the middle for dialogue and discussion and also for people without faith".
The House of One is to be built on the site of the first Church in Berlin which dates back to the 12th century. It's right and fitting that in the 21st century plans to establish a place of worship should extend beyond the one to include others especially those that describe themselves as children of Abraham and recognise one another as brothers and sisters in faith. It throws up exciting possibilities for future interfaith developments. Interfaith centres are not uncommon but an interfaith place of worship is something out of the ordinary and could be a wonderful witness to respect for the integrity of each faith as it worships in its own space and its own way, to cooperation between faiths as they maintain and care for the building, to mutual understanding and friendship as they come to dialogue with one another and know one another as friends. What a wonderful vision for the future.
The plans have been made and money is now being raised to make the dream a reality. This in itself is an interesting interfaith project and one I hope interfaith groups throughout Europe might support. It's possible to donate on line at http://house-of-one.org/en