Islamic and Friendship Studies at Oberlin College

Michael Kennedy: Approaches to Encourage Friendship as a Worldview

On the Artwork:

The art that makes the banner of this response was a piece I created in winter of 2017. Inspired by the idea of friendship as a worldview and approach that is the ultimate end of peacemaking, it has many symbolic components. Each mountain range represents a different, unique landscape. Both are rocky and barren environments. At the top “Man-made Problem” conveys how the gap between the two peaks was created by humankind. This gap symbolizes the self-imposed separations and differentiations from others that are enforced in the contemporary period. The anxieties surrounding competition and loss of self-autonomy lead us to distance ourselves from others and to try to define ourselves as individuals that stand out from the rest. The gap itself has led to the barren landscape and created two separate landscapes that appear harsh and rough. The image of hands across both landscapes are supposed to represent a mutual approach of landscape that can “bridge” the gap and bring the potential for increased life for both environments. Friendship is thus the solution to the man-made problem.

Twelve Step Model for Friendship:

While friendship is often thought as a “normal” part of social life, I firmly believe that a new approach is needed to recognize friendship as a transformative, ethical force. An institution that attempts to provide the necessities for this type of friendship to form should directly address the need for a friendship worldview: this includes addressing the issues that stem from loneliness and anxiety in modern society. For this reason, I think adopting the 12-Step Program developed by Alcoholics Anonymous provides a structure and mindset of “necessary change” that is necessary to push individuals to change their worldviews and practices. The 12-step process can be broadly summarized:

First, accepting the unhappiness and problems caused by our loneliness and anxiety and wanting relations of friendship to improve our individual lives. Second, reflecting on our past and feelings with others who similarly seek friendship and confidentially sharing how our current relationships could be improved. Third, humbly approaching others with the goal of friendship, not expecting anything from them. Fourth, making lists of people we have not been in good relationships with and become willing to fix those relationships on our end. Last, having a moral and ethical awakening, try to carry the principles learned in all affairs.


A Resolution for localities/governments to recognize the importance of institutionalizing friendship:

Alarmed by the rise of loneliness coupled with xenophobia and ethnic nationalism; and

Identifying these trends as an international health and political crisis; and

Deeply convinced humans’ relationship to the environment has created a global climate crisis.


Seeking to raise awareness of a solution to these global ethical issues;

We Recognize friendship as a worldview that can strengthen positive relationships between people as well as with their environment;

Deeply convinced that friendship embodies honesty, integrity, compassion, respect, caring for others and many other individual and social virtues;

Whereas, friendship transcends ethnicity, gender, geographic boundaries, and political and religious affiliations;

Guided by the inclusion of friendship as an important element of all religions, ethical and cultural traditions of the world;

Emphasizing friendship can be a powerful foundation for local, national, and international peacemaking;


Encouraging individuals to approach all from a framework of friendship;

Expecting the institutionalization of friendship as a worldview to be recognized and celebrated this day and beyond; and

Hoping the practice of friendship can enrich and improve life for all.

We now recognize this day as the National/International Day of Friendship.



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