In a world where religion is seen as something that only causes divisions between people, the world needs a uniting force to bring them all together as one. As such, the world’s most prominent religious leaders have come together to present a different vision of how faith can work in the world. On Wednesday, they came together to issue a joint appeal asking people to make one small change in their lives: Make friends with people from other faiths. The 22 leaders involved in the appeal represent a wide spectrum of religious beliefs ― Sikhism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Christianity.
“Our advice is to make friends to followers of all religions.” – Ayatollah Sayyid Fadhel Al-Milani (one of the U.K.’s most senior Shia Muslim clerics)
“Personal contact, personal friendship, then we can exchange a deeper level of experience” – Dalai Lama
Pope Francis chose to speak about his long friendship with the Argentinian Rabbi Abraham Skorka, who also appeared in the video.
“Make Friends” is an initiative of the Elijah Interfaith Institute, an interfaith organisation with offices in Israel and the United States. In a press release, organisers said the project’s mission is to counter the idea that people view each others’ religions with distrust or disdain ― and to potentially even reduce violence conducted in the name of religion. Rabbi Dr. Alon Goshen-Gottstein, the Elijah Interfaith Institute’s director, said that this project introduces a new theological perspective, one that affirms the need for friendship between faiths.
“We cannot deny that in the books of many religions you can find texts that are not very open, even hostile, to people of other faiths,” he said in a statement. “Therefore, when the world’s most important leaders call for friendship, they are in fact affirming a particular way of practising religion and rejecting another.”
“One of the wonderful things about spending time with people completely unlike you is you discover how much you have in common. The same fears, the same hopes, the same concerns,” Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, the U.K.’s former chief rabbi.