THE HAGUE, Netherlands – Global religious leaders contributed to an appeal launched Wednesday that calls on people to make friends with followers of different faiths in the hope that it will foster mutual understanding and ease tensions around the world.
Leaders from Christian, Muslim, Jewish and other faiths, including Pope Francis and Dalai Lama, contributed videos to the appeal that was posted online .
In the video, Muslim cleric Ayatollah Sayyid Fadhel Al-Milani says: "Our advice is to make friends to followers of all religions," while Pope Francis and Rabbi Abraham Skorka say that their religious experiences have been enriched by friends from other faiths.
The Dalai Lama says that "we can exchange deeper level of experience" through personal contacts and friendships.
Rabbi Dr. Alon Goshen-Gottstein, director of the Elijah Interfaith Institute which helped organize the joint statement, called the appeal "a significant novelty from a 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. "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."
The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said in a video message that "friendships across faith are the key to beginning to work out how we deal with difference. We don't deal with difference by pretending it doesn't exist. We deal with it by building relationships."