Though many of the world’s religions promote peace, ironically, the majority of wars stem from difference in beliefs. Because of this, major religious leaders — including Pope Francis, the Dalai Lama and Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks — issued a joint appeal asking people to do one simple thing: make friends with others who maintain different religious views.
In a video recording, Ayatollah Sayyid Fadhel Al-Milani, one of the U.K.’s most senior Shia Muslim clerics, said: “Our advice is to make friends to followers of all religions.” The Dalai Lama added, “Personal contact, personal friendship, then we can exchange a deeper level of experience.”
All in all, 22 leaders from a spectrum of religious beliefs — Sikhism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, and Judaism — participated in the video. Additionally, each contributed a personal statement geared toward the purpose of the project.
In the video, Pope Francis explained his long friendship with the Argentinian Rabbi Abraham Skorka, who also participated in the collaboration. Commenting on their mutual understanding, the Pope said: “My religious life became richer with his explanations, so much richer. And I guess the same happened for him.”
The Huffington Post reports that the Elijah Interfaith Institute initiated the “Make Friends” campaign. In a press release, organizers stated that the project’s mission is to counter the notion that people view each other’s’ religions with distrust or distaste. Contributors seek to make it known that despite what mainstream media would promote, it is possible for people of different religions to get along with each other and not incite violence.
The Institute’s director, Rabbi Dr. Alon Goshen-Gottstein, commented that the project seeks to introduce a new theological perspective. “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 practicing religion and rejecting another.”
Watch the video below: