Remona AlyWednesday 31 July 2019 BBC Radio 2
House of One
I just got back from a trip to Berlin, and as my German hasn’t had a workout since pre-GCSE days, the only phrase I remember of “Ich habe keine haustiere” or “I don’t have any pets”, was surprisingly useless on my cultural tourism sprint.
Luckily for me, Berlin is a city where everyone seems to speak perfect English, and it’s also a place of eye popping street art, quirky shops selling things like king prawn earrings, and eclectic architecture that makes your jaw drop to the floor.
But there’s one bit of architecture yet to be built. As my German hosts drove us past a dusty building site, I saw a huge banner with the words, ‘House of One: Drei religionen, Ein haus’ – three religions, one house.
The plan – apparently a first of its kind – is for a mosque, a church and a synagogue to be housed under a single roof. It will include a communal area where worshippers from the three faiths can enjoy a good old interfaith chinwag.
Amazing things can happen when difference comes together. Rewind back through the centuries, and I can see how civilisation truly shines when it exists in co-existence. For instance in medieval times, the Muslim empire in Baghdad saw all faiths and backgrounds come together to shape its success – Jews, Christians, Muslims and others worked side by side in hospitals, schools and scientific centres. I think of the coexistence in Prophet Muhammad’s time fourteen centuries ago, when the Prophet invited the first delegation of Christians into his mosque, where they used the same prayer space as their Muslim brethren.
For me, the House of One has been everywhere and is wherever we choose to build it, to celebrate unity and unique difference.
I feel that unity and diversity through the words of the Muslim Persian poet, Ibn Muhammad Hadi Rida Quli Hidayat, who wrote: “The Sun’s shining essence is always just one; but its rays spread out and show it as ‘many’. Each created thing is like a coloured lamp of the Sun – The essence is one, but the attributes many.”
I can’t wait to go back to Berlin to visit the symbolic House of One when it’s finally built, unless of course I’m tempted to go back sooner for those bizarre king prawn earrings.