When on May 4, German authorities allowed the resumption of religious services, strict social distancing requirements remained in order to protect those in attendance. The required distance of 1.5 meters between worshipers meant the Dar Assalam mosque in Berlin was unable to host all its regular attendees for Ramadan prayers.
In an act of neighborly solidarity the local Lutheran church cleared the building of its usual seating and offered their church as a place for Islamic worship.
The church’s pastor, Monika Matthias, told Deutsche Welle that “we see Ramadan as a very valuable thing, we think that prayer and opening ourselves to each other and to god helps reinforce humanity and peace.”
The community happily accepted the invitation as Muslim men and women flocked to the church.
“It is a great sign and it brings joy in Ramadan and joy amid this crisis,” Imam Mohamed Taha Sabry of the Dar Assalam mosque told Reuters. “This pandemic has made us a community. Crises bring people together.”
The Virgin Mary hears the Azan
Dozens of worshipers every day have been able to attend Ramadan services in German and Arabic. Islamic prayers are performed under windows depicting the Virgin Mary, an uncommon site in Islamic religious buildings. Mosques do not depict humans in their religious decorations, instead opting for patterns from nature and elaborate mosaics.
“It was a strange feeling because of the musical instruments, the pictures,” worshipper Samer Hamdoun told Reuters. “But when you look, when you forget the small details, this is the House of God in the end.”
The religious and cultural exchange did not end there as the church’s Lutheran pastor even took part in the Islamic service. “I gave a speech in German,” Monika Matthias told Reuters. “And during prayer, I could only say yes, yes, yes, because we have the same concerns and we want to learn from you. And it is beautiful to feel that way about each other.”
The Dar Assalam mosque had previously worked together with a local church during lockdowns in April. The church and mosque had joined forces to simultaneously broadcast the Islamic call to prayer in combination with the ringing of church bells, which one could translate as the Christian call to prayer.