Building a church and mosque together?
Leaders of the Christian and Muslim communities in a tiny suburb of Stockholm have drawn up plans to build a common center for worship, which could be ready in two or three years.
They envision erecting a mosque and connecting it to the town's church--already shared by the predominant Christian branch here, the Swedish Church, and the Catholics. They hope that "House of God", with monotheism as its backbone, will be a model for peace for the rest of the world. But not everybody is convinced.
In a small room of the Fisksätra church, the imam, the priest and the vicar met with Radio Sweden to share the details of this joint project.
Imam Awad Olwan explained that the current mosque is too small for the Muslim community. Therefore, they plan to buy a piece of land adjoining the existing church and build a new mosque there. A large glass foyer would connect the church and the mosque. The religious communities would also share some of the same rooms.
Carl Dahlbäck, the vicar of the parish, said that raising enough money could be an obstacle, but was careful to stress that the Swedish church, which is facing an economic shortfall, is not financing the mosque – the Muslims are. But Awad said he was not overly worried about money.
Awad and Dahlbäck described the response as positive for the most part but admitted that some people have been turned off. They said that while critics are few, some have voiced concerns about the "mixing of religions", something that the leaders stand firmly against.
One critic Radio Sweden spoke to said she had full respect for Muslims but feels the religions are too different fundamentally to share the same building. But Awad explains that there is a historical precedent for this kind of cooperation. For example, he said in the seventh century, Christians and Muslims prayed together in Damascus.
"If we can live together here in peace, we do think that it could have an effect on other parts of the world, too," said Dahlbäck.