In Germany and in much of the rest of the world, including parts of the U.S., religious practices have been upended due to the coronavirus pandemic. In many religions, worshiping is an act that requires bringing multiple people into the same space, often in very close proximity, such as sitting in the pews to attend church, or kneeling and bowing elbow-to-elbow in a mosque during prayers.
However, in order to slow the spread of the pandemic, in many places, gathering at a house of worship is forbidden, or at the very least, only allowed under certain restrictions.
Such is the case in Berlin, where worshipers of all religions must keep a distance of about five feet between each other when worshiping. That’s created a problem for would-be attendees of the Dar Assalam mosque in the city’s Neukölln district. Because of social distancing requirements, only a small portion of the center’s congregation can be inside the building at any one time.
This is especially problematic for the city’s Muslims because it’s currently Ramadan, Islam’s holy month, when prayers are especially important.
Nearby Martha Lutheran church in Kreuzberg, unlike the Dar Assalam mosque, has room to spare. So the church’s leader, pastor Monika Matthias, decided to open up the building to allow local Muslims the chance to worship while still maintaining social distancing requirements.
The mosque’s imam praised Matthias for her willingness to help out her fellow worshipers, even though they’re from a different religion.
“It is a great sign and it brings joy in Ramadan and joy amid this crisis. This pandemic has made us a community. Crises bring people get together,” the cleric said.
Samer Hamdoun, who had never seen the inside of a Christian church before worshiping at the Lutheran facility, was taken aback by the contrast between how Christians and Muslims decorate and equip their worship facilities.
“It was a strange feeling because of the musical instruments, the pictures,” he said.
However, he also noted that, at the end of the day, a church and a mosque both serve the same purpose.
“But when you look, when you forget the small details. This is the house of God in the end,” he said.
Matthias, for her part, also took part in the Muslim worship, albeit in an indirect way.
“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,” she said.