JERUSALEM, July 14 – “Become friends of different religions” was the simple and powerful message delivered by 22 religious figures from around the world through a video initiated by the founder of the Elijah Interreligious Institute. For this religious leader, friendship is the best way to dialogue.
Pope Francis testifies to his friendship with Argentine Rabbi Abraham Skorka
“My religious life has been enriched by his explanations, extraordinarily enriched, and I suppose it was the same for him.” These are the words spoken by Pope Francis to evoke the richness of his friendship with the Argentine Rabbi Abraham Skorka. In this video, broadcast in 14 languages, 22 religious personalities also speak in turn to invite friendship between religions. “We must live together and learn to know each other. Just to explore our common references” expresses Ayatollah Sayyid Fadhel Al-Milani. “One of the wonderful things when you spend time with someone completely different is to find out just how much you have in common,” says Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. Other speakers include Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I, Spiritual Leader Sikh Bhai Sahib Mohinder and the Dalai Lama.
Friendship as the best vehicle for dialogue
This movement was initiated by Rabbi Goshen-Gottstein, known in the Holy Land for launching a campaign of donations to restore the Church of Tabgha after a criminal arson. “Friendship is the root of my experience of interreligious dialogue and the time has come to share with the world a vision of friendship that we have managed to cultivate among religious leaders,” he explains to the Zenit website. The “Make friends” video is the result of his meeting with Mark Woerde, President of a communication agency in the Netherlands, wishing to show that religions could help reduce social tensions. For the Rabbi, friendship is a concrete means of advancing inter-religious dialogue. “While many speakers talk about peace or even harmony among religions, no one talks about friendship. Yet, friendship is the most personal and immediate contribution that a person can make to advance relationships with other religions.” It is the example of the friendship between Rabbi Abraham Skorka and the Pope. “Both have grown in identity and vocation through this encounter. And as the Pope affirms, without ever sacrificing anything of their identity”.
A movement giving a new impetus: no, religions are not dead!
If friendship seems to be a fairly natural notion, the notion of inter-religious dialogue through friendship is new according to Rabbi Goshen-Gottstein. “Friendship is generally limited to members of the same religion. Calling for links outside this circle is a great step forward in inter-religious dialogue”. The initiative, highlighted on social networks, also proves one thing according to the Rabbi: anyone who considers that the religions have died is wrong. Beyond the viral video, the website offers a set of concrete guidelines so that each person can experience friendship among the faithful of different religions. With this campaign and also through the HOPE Institute in Jerusalem, Rabbi Goshen-Gottstein wants to create a worldwide movement.
Claire Guigou (with Zenit)