BERLIN (Reuters) - A Berlin church is hosting Muslims who are unable to fit into their mosque for Friday prayers because of social distancing guidelines.
The Dar Assalam mosque in the Neukölln district normally welcomes hundreds of Muslims to its Friday services. But it can currently only accommodate 50 people at a time under Germany’s coronavirus restrictions.
During the holy fasting month of Ramadan, the nearby Martha Lutheran church stepped in to help, hosting Muslim prayers in Arabic and German.
“It is a great sign and it brings joy in Ramadan and joy amid this crisis,” said Mohamed Taha Sabry, the mosque’s imam, who led his congregation in prayer watched over by a stained-glass window depicting the Virgin Mary.
“This pandemic has made us a community. Crises bring people get together.”
Places of worship reopened in Germany on May 4 after being shut for weeks under a coronavirus lockdown, but worshippers must maintain a minimum distance from one another of 1.5 metres.
The church, a red-brick neo-renaissance building in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district could hardly offer a sharper contrast to the cultural centre in Neukoelln where the Muslim congregation is accustomed to gathering.
“It was a strange feeling because of the musical instruments, the pictures,” said worshipper Samer Hamdoun. “But when you look, when you forget the small details, this is the House of God in the end...”
The Islamic Council, an umbrella group of 400 mosques, said in April that many face bankruptcy because the closures stretched into the holy fasting month of Ramadan, usually a vital period for donations.
The church’s pastor, Monika Matthias, said she had felt moved by the Muslim call to prayer.
“I took part in the prayer,” she said. “I gave a speech in German. 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.”
Reporting by Reuters TV, writing by Katie Stephens and Thomas Escrit; Editing by Gareth Jones