World religious leaders have for the first time partnered up in a rare appeal for world peace. The appeal includes messages by 22 leaders, all appealing to the people of the world to make friends with people outside of their faith group. The appeal has been made as part of an initiative by the Elijah Interfaith Institute.
The set of leaders who have spoken for the appeal includes major Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and Sikh leaders, including those like Pope Francis and the Dalai Lama. The idea behind the appeal is to “reduce social tension around the world by stimulating interpersonal contact between people of different faiths,” as per the institute. The video is around three minutes long and in 16 different languages. The basic idea is to encourage people to make friends from other religions in order to reduce misunderstandings and tensions between faiths.
Pope Francis spoke about how his long-standing friendship with Argentinian Rabbi Abraham Skorka, who was also part of the video. The pope spoke about how this friendship helped both of them grow and learn. British Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks said, “One of the wonderful things about spending time with people completely unlike you is that you discover how much you have in common. The same fears, hopes, and concerns.”
The gist of all the leaders was that everyone is the same – with the same fears, desires, values and so on – followed by an appeal to people to discover those common grounds and to accept one another rather than to misunderstand each other.
Elijah Interfaith Institute Director Rabbi Dr. Alon Goshen-Gottstein believes that the scriptures alone are not enough for people to understand one another and to foster world peace. He even accepted that religious scriptures do not always adopt a loving and caring tone, and often encourage hostilities towards people of other faiths. In this light, he believes “when the world’s most important leaders call for friendship, they are in fact affirming a particular way of practicing religion and rejecting another,” indicating that people can, indeed, ignore the calls for hostilities and focus on what the scriptures say about love and peace instead.
This call to focus on only the peaceful aspects of scripture, and to avoid faulty interpretations and their misuse is what the “Make Friends” initiative is about – to wipe out the “hazardous and widespread misperception that followers of religions other than our own view us with distrust and disdain.”