Berlin lays first stone for multi-faith 'House of One'
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"The idea is bigger than the building," project director Roland Stolte said at a ceremony to mark the beginning of construction work on the so-called "House of One".
Conceived a decade ago, the ambitious project is scheduled to open by 2025 on Museum Island in central Berlin.
Built on the site of a former church which was demolished under the former East German communist regime, the building will contain three separate places of worship for Christians, Jews and Muslims.
Yet the mosque, the synagogue and the protestant church will be connected by a large communal hall designed to host communal events and festivals.
"It's a very symbolic step forward for us," said Kadir Sanci, who will be the imam of the future mosque.
"In these times of polarisation which cast a huge shadow on the world, the 'House of One' embodies the constructive spirit of faith and spirituality," he added.
The multi-faith building would be "a place of peace and security" at a time when tensions between Berlin's Jewish and Muslim communities have flared in the wake of the recent conflict in the Middle East.
There was outrage in Germany in recent weeks after Israeli flags were burned and anti-Semitic slogans chanted at some pro-Palestinian demonstrations across Germany.
Speaking at the ceremony, Berlin mayor Michael Mueller said "hatred, violence, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, racism and incitement to racial hatred have no place in our society".
The imam, pastor and rabbi all said short prayers before symbolic objects from all three religions were cast into the concrete.
The project is estimated to cost around 47 million euros ($57 million), and is financed in part by the German state and the city of Berlin.