Coronavirus: Berlin church hosts Muslims for Friday prayers

Muslims leave the evangelical church of St. Martha’s parish, after their Friday prayers, in Berlin, Germany, on May 22, 2020. (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.

Muslims pray inside the evangelical church of St. Martha's parish, during their Friday prayers, as the community mosque can't fit everybody in due to social distancing rules, in Berlin, Germany, on May 22, 2020. (Reuters)

Muslims pray inside the evangelical church of St. Martha's parish, during their Friday prayers, as the community mosque can't fit everybody in due to social distancing rules, in Berlin, Germany, on May 22, 2020. (Reuters)


“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.

Muslims pray inside the evangelical church of St. Martha's parish, during their Friday prayers, as the community mosque can't fit everybody in due to social distancing rules, in Berlin, on May 22, 2020. (Reuters)

Muslims pray inside the evangelical church of St. Martha's parish, during their Friday prayers, as the community mosque can't fit everybody in due to social distancing rules, in Berlin, on May 22, 2020. (Reuters)

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.

Muslims pray inside the evangelical church of St. Martha's parish, during their Friday prayers, amid the coronavirus outbreak in Berlin, on May 22, 2020. (Reuters)

Muslims pray inside the evangelical church of St. Martha's parish, during their Friday prayers, amid the coronavirus outbreak in Berlin, on May 22, 2020. (Reuters)

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.”

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Last Update: Friday, 22 May 2020 KSA 21:59 - GMT 18:59
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