The Oscar-winning actor narrated the opening segment ‘The Calling’ at Al-Bayt Stadium in Doha.
He told the crowd: “We gather here as one big tribe and Earth is the tent we all live in.”
Known for his roles in The Shawshank Redemption and Million Dollar Baby, the 85-year-old spoke with Qatari influencer Ghanim al Muftah, a 20-year-old FIFA World Cup ambassador who was born with Caudal Regression Syndrome that impairs the development of the lower half of the body.
Mr Al Muftah told the actor to “come on over” to which Mr Freeman replied: “I’m not sure, am I welcome?”
The Qatari entrepreneur said: “We sent out the call because everyone is welcome. This is an invitation to the whole world.”
“I remember, even after hearing the call, instead of seeing another way, we dismissed it and demanded our own way,” Mr Freeman replied.
He added: “And now the world feels even more distant and divided. How can so many countries, languages and cultures come together, if only one way is accepted?”
Men dancing with swords, camels and a parade of World Cup mascots also featured in the ceremony to open the competition.
Dreamers, from the official World Cup soundtrack, was performed by BTS superstar Jung Kook and Qatari singer Fahad Al Kubaisi.
The lyrics include: “Look who we are, we are the dreamers, we’ll make it happen because we believe it.”
Mr Freeman appeared later in the ceremony to tell the crowd: “Football spans the world, unites nations in their love of the beautiful game.
“What brings together nations also brings together communities.
“We all have a story on football and how it brought us together and this land has a story of its very own.”
Fifa president Gianni Infantino was in attendance alongside Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the emir of Qatar, and Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the driving force behind the country’s World Cup bid.