It was last month that Pope Francis called on people of faith to make friends with one another. Leaders from the different faith communities including Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders among others, contributed their support for this initiative by posting videos online. The project, which is called, “Make Friends”, is an initiative of the Elijah Interfaith Institute, an international non-profit interfaith organization.
Pope Francis appeared in his video with his friend Rabbi Abraham Skorka. In their video, Rabbi Skorka says the friendship between himself and Pope Francis is due to their religiousness. Rabbi Skorka further explains this by saying, “And it was our religiousness that allowed us to unfold a very deep dialogue which touched both of our hearts.” Pope Francis also speaks about his relationship with Rabbi Skorka by saying, “And that’s how it was, it was a mutual trust that grew to the point that he’s brought me to his community on two holidays to preach. A Catholic bishop preaching in a synagogue. And that was because there was a basis of total trust and because we knew that in our conversations, and I want to highlight that, none of us negotiated our own identity.”
Pope Francis and Rabbi Skorka’s words regarding friendship are very import. Dialogue is a way of life. Making friends with someone who is not of your faith can not only help you understand a person’s way of life better, but it can also foster a mutual respect which can grow and influence others. Encouraging interfaith dialogue and friendships between people across different faiths can assist in the larger issue of world peace. Understanding a person’s religious beliefs in your local community can help lead to dialogue about many issues and topics, and it can also open dialogue in your local community.
I believe this initiative “Make Friends” will be very beneficial for interfaith dialogue across the world because although it is a simple message, it calls for a powerful response to engage with strangers and form respect and mutual trust in one another. In a press release for this initiative, the founders of the “Make Friends” campaign 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.” I believe in what Pope Francis had to say about friendship when he said that friendship involves walking alongside another person. This idea of learning to make friends with others of different religions allows us to get to know one another in our own communities by stepping into their shoes when becoming friends with them. The Elijah Interfaith Institute’s initiative is very encouraging and I hope that many new friendships are formed across all religions and the work of interfaith dialogue continues to grow through this project.