The World's Religious Leaders Just Joined Together To Make An Incredibly Important Request

"Personal contact is believed to counter misperceptions, prejudices and distrust."

In an effort to unify people of all faiths across the globe and potentially even reduce violent acts in the name of religion, several of the world's top religious leaders came together in an unprecedented way to make a crucial plea.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I (a Christian leader based in Turkey), Pope Francis, the Dalai Lama, and several others came together to make one important and potentially life-saving request: 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 — says.

Adds Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh, a Sikh leader, "No matter from which side of the mountain you're climbing, we should be helping each other, so that we can all get to the same place. So there is need for people to make friends."

The "Make Friends" initiative is the brainchild of the Elijah Interfaith Institute — an organization that aims to deepen understanding across religions — and they're very proud of their latest effort. "The joint statement aims to reduce tension in societies around the globe and it is an example of interfaith harmony and unity set by the world's top religious figures," the Elijah Interfaith Institute says in a statement. "It offers a vision of a more open, more trusting and positive world." 



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And many of these religious leaders practice what they preach. Literally. As Pope Francis explains in the video, his friendship with Rabbi Abraham Skorka, a Jewish leader from Argentina, has made his religious life "so much richer" because of everything he's learned.

Rabbi Skorka agrees, explaining of his connection with Pope Francis, "It was through our religious calling that we found each other in life." 

According to the Elijah Interfaith Institute, the idea for the multi-faith video was inspired by the findings of an independent global study, which revealed the majority of religiously affiliated people feel positively toward members of other faiths, but assume followers of other faiths feel negatively towards them. 

"That common assumption perpetuates a cycle of distance and mutual distrust, which most people do not wish to preserve," the organization notes.

And though there's an emphasis on friendship and understanding, the Elijah Interfaith Institute "ultimately" hopes this message will succeed in reducing violence in the name of religion as well. "It is an invitation to engage in positive acting and thinking, rather than artificially reducing violence or negativity. By cultivating friendship, by getting to know one another in reality, by sharing wisdom and teachings across religions, we become exposed to the finest and the most human side of people and of other religions," the organization explains. "Reduction of violence is an automatic byproduct." 

The idea that knowing, and befriending people of different faiths will expand your worldview and enrich your life has statistical support.

"The relationships, insight and positive collaborations that will grow out of the initiative are of even greater importance than getting past negativity and violence," the Elijah Interfaith Institute concludes, adding via a press release, "Personal contact is believed to counter misperceptions, prejudices and distrust."

Cover image via giulio napolitano / Nadezda Murmakova. / Shuttestock.

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