Make friends and learn to see God in each other, religious leaders urge believers of all faiths

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople is among the religious leaders praying that believers across the spectrum will be friends with each otherReuters

Religious leaders across the  faith spectrum are urging believers to 'make friends' with each other.

Pope Francis, the Dalai Lama, Patriarch Bartholomew and the UK's former Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, are among the leaders who have recorded a joint video in partnership with the Elijah Interfaith Institute and Twitter to make their point that personal friendships can overcome prejudice and fear. The institute is also offering a toolkit for making friends with people of other faiths and traditions.

The statement is intended to reduce social tension around the world by stimulating interpersonal contact between people of different faiths.

The appeal was released as a 3-minute video in 16 languages during a press conference in London.

In their statements on the video, Ayatollah Al-Milani advises people to make friends with followers of all religions, Patriarch Bartholomew calls on the world to 'recognise the beauty of God in every living human being', Pope
Francis and Rabbi Abraham Skorka demonstrate how their religious experiences have been enriched by
their interfaith friendship.

Grand Mufti of Egypt Shawki Allam urges people to look for the similarities not the differences, the Dalai Lama calls for a deepening of spiritual friendship and Lord Sackks says, '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 Archbishop of the Church of Sweden Antje Jackelén says, 'This should start a process that
will take prejudices away and where new insights and hope is born.'

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby says, 'It's not complicated, start with sharing what we all share, which is the pleasure of conversation.'

The joint statement is intended to counter a 'hazardous and widespread' view that followers of
religions other than our own regard us with distrust and disdain.

It comes as a new global study led by the global research institute Motivaction found that people of all faiths are
generally open to people with other beliefs.

Head researcher at Motivaction, Martijn Lamper, said that a message promoting friendship across religions is likely to resonatewith the majority of religious people around the world, which according to Pew
Research comprises more than eight in ten people worldwide. 

Professor Gregory Reichberg of the Norwegian Peace Research Institute Oslo said that the misunderstanding that people of other faiths harbor animosity toward us 'sets us up for a bad dynamic and tends to produce what we fear'.

That misunderstanding stems from the lack of contact between religious people of different faiths, fueling prejudices and social tension.

Rabbi Dr. Alon Goshen-Gottstein, director of the Elijah Interfaith Institute and the chief organiser of this
joint statement, said, '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. Therefore, when the world's most important
leaders call for friendship, they are in fact affirming a particular way of practicing religion and rejecting