The pope, the Dalai Lama, and Ayatollah Sayyid Fadhel Al-Milani have an important message for you: Make friends.
Created by the Elijah Interfaith Institute, an interfaith organization fostering unity and diversity, the unique video project features 22 holy leaders coming together to urge people to seek out others who may practice religion and faith differently than they do and unite in friendship.
The leaders call on people to make a sincere effort to forge personal connections…
…by listening and conversing — but mostly listening.
When we get to know people who exist outside our individual silos created by geography, class, race, or religion, we can learn a lot about ourselves and others who share our communities.
It’s no secret that disagreements over religion can lead to negativity, distrust, discrimination and violence, but the stewards of faith believe the antidote to these social ills is understanding, friendship, and building community.
Whether or not you subscribe to religious teachings or beliefs, making friends with people who are different than you is sound advice.
Plus, there’s a psychological basis to back it up. Research conducted by eminent psychologist professor Robert Zajonc demonstrated that coming across something (or, in this case, someone) creates familiarity, and that familiarity makes you like the person, idea, or thing more than you did before you were first introduced. It’s called the mere-exposure effect.
In the case of making new friends, if you live in New York City and you get to know someone from Savannah, Georgia, your opinion about people from the South may be higher than it was before you met your new friend, and vice versa.
Something as easy as introducing ourselves may be the first step to ending hurtful rhetoric and improving relationships across demographic barriers.
If nothing else, we can make new friends along the way. It certainly doesn’t hurt to try.