Business: A powerful force for
interfaith understanding & peace

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Finalists 2016

  • Finalists are listed below in alphabetical order. The winners will be announced on 6 September 2016 in Rio.

  • The jury is comprised of a small group of high-level experts, including from the United Nations: H.E. Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, UN High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations; from the religious freedom community: Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett, President of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights & Justice, and a former head of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom; and from the business & peace community: Per L. Saxegaard, Business CEO, and Founder and Executive Chairman of the Business for Peace Foundation, Oslo, Norway.

  • – Jonathan Berezovsky | CEO, Migraflix, Brazil
  • – Aziz Abu Sarah & Scott Cooper | Co-Founders/Co-CEOs, MEJDI Tours, USA & Israel
  • – Michael Feder | Founder & CEO, PrayerSpark, USA & worldwide
  • – Frank Fredericks | CEO, Mean Communications, USA & worldwide
  • – Kathy Ireland | Founder & President, kathy ireland Worldwide, USA & worldwide
  • – Yaya Winarno Junardy | President-Commissioner, PT Rajawali Corpora, Indonesia
  • – Zahi Khouri | Chairman & CEO, National Beverage Company, Palestine
  • – Don Larson | Founder & CEO, Sunshine Nut Company, Mozambique
  • – Fouad M. Makhzoumi | Executive Chairman-CEO, Future Pipe Industries Group Limited, UAE & Lebanon
  • – H. Bruce McEver | President & Co-Founder Berkshire Capital Securities LLC, USA & UK
  • – Emma Nicholson | Baroness of Winterbourne, Executive Chairman, Iraq Britain Business Council, and Founder & Chairman, Amar Foundation, UK & Iraq
  • – Joaquim Augusto Sanches Pereira | Regional Business Leader/CEO, Cuascor do Braxil Dresser-Rand, a Siemens Business (Guascor do Brasil), Brazil
  • – Mehool H. Sanghrajka | Founder and CEO, Learning Possibilities Group, UK
  • – Jonathan Shen Jian, CEO, Shinework Media, China
  • – Abdo Ibrahim El Tassi | President & CEO, Peerless Garments LP, Canada
  • – Tayyibah Taylor (1952-2014) | CE & Founder, WOW Publishing, Inc. (Azizah Magazine), USA
  • – Brittany Underwood | Founder & President, AKOLA, USA & Uganda

Jonathan Berezovsky

Summary:

Immigrants sometimes face prejudice because of their religious and cultural identities when they relocate to Brazil. Jonathan Berezovsky is founder and CEO of Migraflix, which helps to empower immigrants and refugees economically, and to integrate them into society. It does this through workshops and events that show how new cultures can enrich Brazil, such as through new ways of cooking. Migraflix spreads a message of tolerance towards immigrants, regardless of nationality or religion. The company aims to show the world that Jews, Muslims and Christians, some of whom have immigrated to Brazil from conflict areas in the Middle East, can come together and understand each other through music, such as the interfaith Majeez band founded by Jonathan.

Nominating Organization:

Aziz Abu Sarah and Scott Cooper

In many Middle Eastern countries including Egypt, Israel, Turkey and Palestine, political and social unrest has led to violence along religious and cultural lines, where each religious group has a different historical and social narrative about what lead to current conflicts. Aziz Abu Sarah and Scott Cooper are co-CEOs and Founders of MEJDI Tours, an interfaith and intercultural tour company running tours in Israel and throughout the Middle East that foster peace and cultural understanding through “Dual Narrative” tours lead by Israeli and Palestinian guides who offer their perspectives on culture, politics and religion at each tour location.

Nominating Organization:


Michael Feder

Summary:

In times of need, conflict or struggle, people of all faiths often reach out for spiritual consolation and prayer, valuing religious community support. Michael Feder is Founder and CEO of PrayerSpark, a company that enables people to draw on the faith of the world’s leading Spiritual Leaders to send free prayers or positive affirmations to anyone, anywhere, of any belief or no faith. The company generates revenues by offering other services such as selling greeting cards, with revenues going to support local faith causes. Also, donations can be made contributing to PrayerSpark’s mission of peace, grassroots charitable works, and interfaith understanding.

Nominating Organization:

Frank Fredericks

Summary:

Many religious and cultural communities face “otherism” through lack of education, and underlying economic issues that often spur violence by perceived differences. Frank Fredericks led Mean Communications in a coordinated social media strategy to spread awareness of the world campaign “Do One Thing for Diversity and Inclusion.” The campaign engaged people around the world through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to do one thing to support cultural diversity and inclusion, which included promoting freedom of religion or belief and tolerance. The United Nations Alliance of Civilizations launched the campaign in partnership with UNESCO and various other partners from corporations to civil society.

Nominating Organization:

Kathy Ireland

Summary:

Religious oppression and discrimination cause instability and limit the freedoms and opportunities of women and men worldwide. This is made worse because leaders of communities, politicians, government officials and legal experts are not educated about the socio-economic benefits of inter-faith understanding and religious freedom. Kathy Ireland, Founder and President of kathy ireland Worldwide, supports the extraordinary work of Hardwired, a women-led initiative to advance dignity and freedom in the face of religious oppression, especially in Iraq and Sudan, through education of national and community leaders. Beyond her support to Hardwired, she engages personally. For instance, Kathy helped host an event for Yazidi women escaping oppression, which included an appeal to Congress to take immediate action to stop ISIS atrocities against Yazidis.

Nominating Organization:

Yaya Winarno Junardy

Summary:

Indonesia is a multi-religious country where in the past, massive riots fell along racial, ethnic and religious lines, often directed at businesses and business owners, many of whom were minorities. The threat of violence is exacerbated by poverty. A pressing problem is that millions of couples from all faiths are unable to wed due to costs and bureaucracy, which leaves their children without legal status hindering their future opportunities, such as education and work. Y. W. Junardy, head of a large Indonesian investment company, uses his business know-how to solve the problem. Working with businesses, the government and religions, he facilitates weddings and receptions for thousands at a time presided over by ministers of each faith. The couples and their children immediately gain legal status and real hope for the future.

Nominating Organization:

Zahi Khouri

Summary:

Political and religious tensions between Israel and Palestine, and within Palestine itself, have lead to poor education of Palestinian youth and a stagnant job market. Zahi Khouri, CEO of The National Beverage Company (the exclusive Coca Cola Licensee for Palestine) has used his position as a leading business entrepreneur, to provide much needed employment in Palestine as well as educational programs for youth, additionally he was instrumental in launching the Breaking the Impasse (BTI) initiative, joining prominent Palestinian and Israeli business people and civil society leaders, calling political leaders to achieve a peace resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, an inherently religious conflict. His company employs 250 people, giving another 10,000 jobs.

Nominating Organization:


Don Larson

Summary:

Mozambique is one of the world’s poorest nations, while it used to be a leading source of cashews worldwide, civil war and tree disease led to extreme poverty and lack of job opportunities across religious and cultural lines, leaving many widows and over 1.6 million orphans. Don Larson, Founder and CEO of Sunshine Nut Company and a former Vice President at The Hershey Company, inspired by his Evangelical faith, works across faith and cultural lines with the belief that companies can have a profound impact on people’s lives. His company is reviving the cashew business by employing people in Mozambique, including Muslims, where over 50,000 families will now have work and new cashew trees are being planted for future economic growth.

Nominating Organization:

Fouad Makhzoumi

Summary:

During a 15-year civil war in Lebanon, youth were led astray by religious fundamentalism foregoing education resulting in unemployment and economic stagnation. Fouad Makhzoumi, CEO of Future Pipes Industries Group Limited, witnessed how his son’s youthful energy and cross-cultural savvy – when brought in to lead the company – triggered exponential growth by providing a positive vision for productive and meaningful business. Makhzoumi and his foundation help empower people by harnessing youth and promoting religious freedom. For instance, his microcredit training for Lebanese of all faiths has helped over 10,000 set up sustainable businesses, and hundreds of thousands more are receiving vocational training.

Nominating Organization:


 H. Bruce McEver

Summary:

Business leaders often don’t understand the contributions of faith to the workplace and society, including the way religious freedom promotes peace and stability. H. Bruce McEver, President and Founder of Berkshire Capital Securities LLC, created the Foundation for Religious Literacy to promote such understanding by bringing business leaders and other professionals together with outstanding academics and practitioners. The Foundation cultivates inter-religious understanding and practical skills through collaboration with partners such as regional Harvard Business School Clubs. His Foundation also advocates values and ethics derived from religious and secular traditions, fostering a healthy pluralist democracy through respect for difference.

Nominating Organization:


Emma Nicholson, Baroness of Winterbourne

Summary:

ISIS (Daesh), driven by religious intolerance and fundamentalism, has destroyed the Syrian and Iraqi economies, displaced many from their homes, and is responsible for the genocidal deaths of religious minorities including Yazidis. This has left women survivors in Iraq in need of shelter, healthcare, education and work. Baroness Nicholson, head of the Iraq Britain Business Council and the AMAR Foundation, facilitates business, trade, investment, training and transfer of technology into Iraq. Religious discrimination is combated by serving those regardless of their faith, helping displaced women with all aspects of life: health (mental and physical), education, recreation and work skills, with support by local government leaders.

Nominating Organization:

 Joaquim Augusto Sanches Pereira

Categories:

Brazil is undergoing massive religious transformations, including among the more than 200 indigenous societies. Many faiths and cultures in the most remote regions do not have a voice or means of communication with society, given a lack of infrastructure and problems with literacy. Joaquim Augusto Sanches Pereira, Regional Business Leader and CEO of Dresser-Rand, a Siemens Business (Guascor do Brasil), supports the Vaga Lume initiative promoting religious understanding and peace as well as the protection of cultural diversity. This is done through literary programs for over 26,000 children, teenagers and adults, providing more than 86,000 books, and activities utilizing this literary knowledge fostering dialogue on inter-faith and intercultural understanding.

Nominating Organization:

Mehool H Sanighrajka

Summary:

In the UK and worldwide, there is little understanding of Jainism, an ancient faith. There is also limited access to materials in English on this growing faith or access to its religious texts. Mehool H Sanghrajka, Founder and CEO of Learning Possibilities Group, conceived the ‘JAINpedia project’ in his role as the Director of the Institute of Jainology (IoJ). Mehool devised a 12-year program to create the most authoritative online Jain encyclopedia using the collections of the major Institutions in the UK.  This included the British Library, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Boliden Library, Oxford and the Wellcome Trust Library.

Nominating Organization:


Jonathan Shen Jian

Summary:

China has a national need for cultural and interfaith understanding, and the world also has the need to better understand China’s rich mosaic of faiths and cultures. As CEO of Shinework Media & Shinework Pictures, Jonathan Shen Jian addresses this international need through collaborative projects. He helps bring an understanding of global cultural diversity and, to an extent, interfaith understanding to China’s media market of one billion people through his film work. For instance, an original Shinework film project is the true story of an Iranian Kung Fu fan, who underwent much hardship to become a Kung Fu master by embarking upon a pilgrimage from Iran to China’s famous Shaolin Temple.

Nominating Organization:

Abdo Ibrahim El Tassi

Summary:

Many immigrants to Canada experience difficulties in adapting to their new home, often fueled by a lack of marketable skills, cultural and religious misunderstandings, and an inability to communicate in English. Abdo Ibrahim El Tassi, President and CEO of Peerless Garments LP, has dedicated himself to building bridges to promote tolerance and harmony between new arrivals and their new home country. His company respects and hires people of all faiths and provides training and development opportunities for newcomers to learn marketable skills and English. El Tassi also has provided $1.7 million in interest-free loans to cover business startups, mortgages and university tuition for immigrants to Canada.

Nominating Organization:


 Tayyibah Taylor (1952-2014)

Summary:

In western societies, Muslim women are often not well understood, being viewed either as oppressed or the “other,” with little understanding of their real situation among non-Muslims. Even among Muslim populations, they are not always given their own voice in public and there is little recognition of their business acumen. Tayyibah Taylor (1952-2014), CEO and Founder of Wow Publishing, Inc. (Azizah Magazine), was a Muslim business entrepreneur who through her magazine and travel helped Muslim women as well as many women and men of other faiths better understand the life and accomplishments of Muslim women. She was a tireless advocate for Muslim women, and visited six continents, advocating for peace and constructive interfaith relations.

Nominating Organization:


 Brittany Underwood

  • Brittany UnderwoodFounder and President
  • AKOLA
  • USA and Uganda
Summary:

Conflict in Uganda has left many women as widows and children as orphans of different faiths, resulting in homeless children roaming the streets and with widows without any means to care for themselves. Brittany Underwood is Founder and Chairman of Akola, a mission-driven enterprise that empowers women to become agents of transformation in their families and communities through economic development. Akola promotes gender equality, human rights and religious freedom by training and employing women, providing them and children a means of existence and a better quality of life. She also has developed a Texas operation to employ women rescued from trafficking.

Nominating Organization:

NOMINATIONS WERE ACCEPTED IN FOUR CATEGORIES:

Core business

Championing interfaith understanding and peace through a company’s core business operations, including internal procedures, human resources hiring practices, training, product/service development, sourcing policies, supply chains, as well as the development of products and services that promote interfaith understanding and peace.

Social investment and philanthropy

Financial and in-kind contributions, and strategic social investment support for NGOs, UN and multilateral agencies or directly to affected communities and/or contribution of functional expertise through volunteering efforts.

Advocacy and public policy engagement

Fostering social cohesion and inter-group dialogue and relationship-building in the workplace, marketplace and local community.

Partnership and collective action

Joining forces with Governments, UN entities, civil society organizations and/or other businesses to act collectively to promote interfaith understanding and peace and forge long-term partnerships for local or regional economic and sustainable development.


The Global Business & Interfaith Peace Awards recognize business leaders – current or past CEOs – who have demonstrated leadership in championing interfaith understanding and peace. The Awards are a partnership initiative of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation (RFBF), its Brazilian affiliate, the Associação pela Liberdade Religiosa e Negócios (ALRN), and the United Nations Global Compact Business for Peace (B4P) platform.


Awards will be presented on 6th September 2016, the night before the opening of the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, where award recipients will have the opportunity to present their commitment to interfaith understanding and peace, while contributing to the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16: “Promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, providing access to justice for all and building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.”