Berlin’s House of One celebrates our common spirituality

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Gerry ChidiacReligion, intended to guide humans on the road to spiritual enlightenment, has instead often been a source of division and even a justification for violence. In recent years, however, there has been a significant shift, with religious leaders and their followers coming together to celebrate commonalities.

Nowhere is this more evident than in Berlin, once the capital of one of the most openly intolerant regimes in modern history. It is also a city where a wall once separated opposing ideologies, one of which maintained that there was no place for religion in its ideal state.

Today, Christians, Muslims and Jews are coming together to build a new structure, the House of One. It will stand on the site that once housed Berlin’s oldest Catholic church, which was destroyed in the Second World War and then turned into a parking lot by communist East German authorities.

In the [House of One], those who want to practise their religion will have a separate room to do so, but there will also be a room in the centre where all can come together in a spirit of unity. The House of One is not about compromising personal beliefs, it is about respecting our neighbours and celebrating what we have in common.

As a Christian of German and Semitic origin, news of this project fills me with a sense of peace and completeness.

My maternal German grandparents’ generation was fed a constant stream of lies that said that Jews were different, were the cause of all of our problems and had no place among us. That philosophy found fertile ground in a world that had been anti-Jewish for many centuries.

My paternal Semitic grandparents fled a part of the world that had grown intolerant of Christians, even though it is where Christ himself lived. Much of this hatred was driven by a belief, still prevalent in the world today, that Christianity was, and is, a threat to Islam.

What is bitterly ironic is that Christianity, Islam and Judaism share the same spiritual root. Followers of all three religions call themselves Children of Abraham, share common spiritual writings and revere the holy city of Jerusalem.

The House of One is a profound project, reflecting a world that is learning to see diversity as an asset. Racist Berlin and separated Berlin now only exist in history books, but they provide lessons about the futility of the ideologies they represented.

Numerous questions have yet to be answered related to this project. There are many groups under the umbrella of each of the three religions in the House of One. There are also many other world religions not included. And there is the challenge of raising funds to construct the new house of worship, although people around the world are donating to the building fund. (To donate, click here.)

Despite the challenges, if we consider how far we have come in celebrating our common humanity in the last century, it is certainly conceivable that similar houses of worship will be built all over the world. Imagine the significance of such a structure being built in Jerusalem!

Humans are spiritual beings. We are also social beings. It is natural that many of us seek to practise our spirituality in a communal manner and develop traditions in doing so, and that others develop their own traditions. This does not have to separate us, however, because at the core we really are One.

Troy Media columnist Gerry Chidiac is an award-winning high school teacher specializing in languages, genocide studies and work with at-risk students.

© Troy Media

House of one

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