Ruby Russell writes for ENI News (10 January 2012) about Muslims in Germany who have been undertaking dialogue with the Catholic Church about three churches in their town which may have to close:
"Three Catholic churches in the west German region of North-Rhine Westphalia that may have to close this month have received a show of solidarity from the local Muslim community.
Muhammed Al, chairman of the Merkez Mosque Association, wrote to Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck, head of the Essen diocese, on behalf of local Muslims last fall about the three Catholic churches in the town of Duisberg. "We emphasized our long years of cooperation with the parishes and the importance of the churches in the area. We said this should be seen not just from a financial perspective, but also a cultural and social perspective [including] for the sake of interfaith and cultural dialogue," Al said in an interview.
Since the foundation of the Merkez Mosque in 1984, Duisburg's Muslim and Catholic communities have been in close dialogue. The congregations hold regular events where they learn about each other's faiths and pray together. They also cooperate on social projects and hold a joint harvest festival each year. In 2008, the Catholic parishes spoke to their congregation to encourage acceptance among locals for the construction of a new mosque, which is Germany's largest. "Interfaith and intercultural dialogue promotes mutual awareness and does away with a great many prejudices," said Al. "People approach each other through dialogue and get to know each other's unfamiliar prayers and traditions."
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