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Priest bridges religious divide by funding Germany's biggest mosque

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(Read caption) Culture Prize 2009 winners (with folders, l. to r.) Peter Steinacker, Karl Lehmann, Navid Kermani, and Salomon Korn.

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The recent Swiss ban on minarets reflects a climate gone sour between Muslims and non-Muslims in Europe. But here in Germany, two people have taken a stand to promote a dialogue that goes far beyond symbolics.

Not long ago, the Rev. Franz Meurer, a Roman Catholic priest in a rough Cologne neighborhood, led his parish to raise funds for the construction of a controversial mosque there, slated to be Germany’s biggest in a city most famous for its Catholic cathedral.

And when Navid Kermani, a prominent Iranian-born writer from Cologne, received a national award for his efforts to promote inter-religious dialogue in Germany recently, the Muslim writer reciprocated in kind. At the prize award ceremony, Mr. Kermani announced he would give his share of the €45,000 (US$67,738) award to Father Meurer.

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