In a rare move, major religious leaders ― from His Holiness Pope Francis to the Dalai Lama ― issued a joint appeal March 27 asking people to follow a simple bit of advice: Make friends with people of other faiths. “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, said in a video recording, as reported by huffingtonpost.
As reported by huffingtonpost, “Personal contact, personal friendship, then we can exchange a deeper level of experience,” the Dalai Lama said. His Holiness Pope Francis chose to speak about his long friendship with the Argentinian Rabbi Abraham Skorka, who also appeared in the video. “My religious life became richer with his explanations, so much richer,” His Holiness Pope Francis said of Skorka. “And I guess the same happened for him.”
“Make Friends” is an initiative of the Elijah Interfaith Institute, an interfaith organization with offices in Israel and the United States. In a press release, organizers 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.
The 22 leaders involved in the appeal represent a wide spectrum of religious beliefs ― Sikhism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. Each leader contributed a personal statement specifically for the purposes of this project.