Business: A powerful force for
interfaith understanding & peace


Business: A powerful force supporting interfaith understanding, religious liberty and peace

19 Jul, 2017

Brian Grim, July 23, 2017

Comments to Cumberland Lodge’s Emerging International Leaders Programme on Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB). The programme equips future leaders and opinion formers with the skills and insight necessary to drive debate, influence policy and build a powerful global network.

I suspect the thought that I am going to share today will be new to some. The thought is simple. It’s that business can be a powerful force supporting interfaith understanding, religious liberty and peace.

This is possible because business is at the crossroads of culture, commerce and creativity. Businesses bring people together for a common purpose – be it making a product or providing a service – that transcends cultural and religious identities and unites people in a common enterprise where differences give way to shared purpose.

Let me quote someone who was not especially friendly to religion, that helps make the point. Voltaire observed: “Take a view of the Royal Exchange in London, a place more venerable than many courts of justice, where the representatives of all nations meet for the benefit of mankind. There the Jew, the [Muslim], and the Christian transact together, as though they all professed the same religion, and give the name of infidel to none but bankrupts.”

To begin, let’s together watch the first of a number of short videos I’ll show today that demonstrate this social phenomenon where the marketplace brings people together. It’s a video from Lebanon, the only country in the world that celebrates Annunciation Day (March 25) as a national Islamo-Christian holiday. In the marketplace there is neither Jew, nor Muslim nor Christian – these differences fall away.

Of course, this video also demonstrates the powerful force the entertainment, music and film business can have on supporting interfaith understanding, religious liberty and peace. Although it wasn’t fully clear, the artist, Tania Kassis, is singing Ave Maria in concert with the adhan أَذَان‎‎, the Muslim call to prayer. Here she is performing the same song in concert.

So, what I will endeavor to do today is argue convincingly that matters of faith and religious liberty are not just in the interests of people of faith, but they are in the interests of everyone in society, including – as I will demonstrate – business. I will also endeavor to demonstrate that business is a powerful force supporting interfaith understanding, religious liberty and peace. I will demonstrate these points by looking at several interconnected concepts:

  1.  1) Faith – religious and otherwise – matters to the economy and to business
  2.  2) Business is a powerful force supporting religious liberty, interfaith understanding and peace

1) Faith – religious and otherwise – matters to the economy and to business

Reports of the death of organized religion have been exaggerated. According to recent research my foundation did for the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the Role of Religion, the growth of religious populations worldwide is projected to be 23 times larger than the growth of the unreligious between 2010 and 2050.

The research report Changing religion, changing economies has profound implications for the global economy. For example, today seven of the G8 nations have Christian-majority populations. But by 2050 only one of the leading economies is projected to have a majority Christian population – the United States. The other mega economies in 2050 are projected to include a country with a Hindu majority (India), a Muslim majority (Indonesia), and two with exceptionally high levels of religious diversity (China and Japan).

While the impact of more diverse religion is on the rise on a global scale. Faith, itself, is an important element of the global economy. For instance, faith in the economy, as measured by the monthly consumer confidence index, is viewed as a key indicator of the economy’s overall health. But what about religious faith – might it also matter for the economy?

Wells Fargo recently identified four market transformations they expect in 2015. The first three relate to global economic recovery and technology. But the fourth is that business will shift from primarily being about “making money” to being about “doing good”.

Socially responsible business is certainly a theme championed by religious leaders, including Pope Francis, Sojourner’s Jim Wallis, the Dalai Lama and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Recent studies suggest that faith can positively impact the economy through at least two distinct vectors: ethos and engagement.

Ethos of the company

Worldwide, a number of companies adhere to a religious or belief-based ethos. For instance, Sanitarium, the most popular breakfast cereal company in Australia, is owned and operated by the Seventh Day Adventist Church. As a practical demonstration of the Church’s doctrinal dedication to health and well-being, Sanitarium is a South Pacific leader in producing healthy products and in organizing community programmes to encourage healthy lifestyles.

One such Sanitarium programme is their popular nationwide TRYathlons, which inspire children to get moving in a friendly and supportive environment with an emphasis on enjoying the experience as part of an active lifestyle rather than competition.

In fact, breakfast cereals in general have Adventist roots. The parent company of Sanitarium was Sanitas, the original company set up by then-Adventists John Harvey and W.K. Kellogg to manufacture toasted corn flakes as a healthier alternative to the greasy American breakfasts of the day. Yes, and now you know the religious roots of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes!

Another example of a Christian inspiration for its business ethos is Sunshine Nuts in Mozambique. This is an example showing how one Evangelical Christian CEO, motivated by his faith, has started a company in Mozambique that not only stocks the shelves of America’s major food stores – from Giant and Wegmans to Whole Foods and H.E.B. – but empowers tens of thousands of people. His innovative business model is based on what he calls a “reverse tithe” – where 90% of profits go back into the local community. That means many American consumers are participating in a faith endeavor, perhaps unaware.

Such examples are not just limited to the Christian tradition. Some case studies set out in a new book, Practical Wisdom in Management: Business Across Spiritual Traditions, documents the ethos in each of 10 different religious and humanist traditions. These range from the humanism guiding Mondelēz International (formerly Kraft Foods) and the Buddhist influence on Whole Foods, to the Zoroastrian ethos of Tata Group, India’s largest conglomerate with operations on six continents and in more than 80 countries.

Corporate Engagement

Recognizing and drawing on the religiously affiliated identities of employees can help companies successfully navigate challenges and seize new opportunities. A study from the UN Global Compact Business for Peace platform and the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation shows how businesses, often at the initiative of people of faith within companies, can promote interfaith understanding and peace. And it is happening in countries as diverse as Nigeria, Brazil, Israel, the Philippines and Indonesia, as well as in the tense border between India and Pakistan.

In 2013, based on suggestions from employees, the Coca-Cola Company launched a project to promote understanding and dialogue by installing two “small world machines” in New Delhi, India, and Lahore, Pakistan, areas where religious tensions run high. Long separated by a border that has seen a number of wars, Indians and Pakistanis were able to use the machines’ live video feeds and large 3D touch screens to speak to and even “touch” the person on the other side. People on both sides of the border, who had never met before, exchanged peace signs, touched hands and danced together.

While some are skeptical that Coca-Cola’s campaign will have any long-term impact on relations between India and Pakistan, the company believes it is a step in the right direction, and it appears to be selling more of their product.

2) Business is a powerful force supporting religious liberty, interfaith understanding and peace

In September 2013, former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon set up the Business for Peace platform to harness the largely untapped potential of businesses to bring peace while they grow their bottom lines. Because businesses are at the crossroads of culture, commerce and creativity, they have the resources and incentive to make the world more peaceful.

That’s the theory, but what about the practice?

A set of case studies published by the UN Global Compact and the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation shows that the theory has some legs. Businesses in various parts of the world are addressing prejudices that feed violent extremism and terrorism. Although no single initiative is a magic bullet to end all such violence, taken together they offer a glimpse into the peacemaking potential of business. The initiatives include:

Using marketing to cross borders: companies can make positive contributions to peace by mobilizing advertising campaigns that bring people of various faiths and backgrounds together, as WE’VE ALREADY seen in Coca-Cola’s Small World campaigns linking people in Pakistan and India through vending machines equipped with live video feeds.

Rewarding intercultural understanding: cross-cultural dialogue and cooperation is an essential part of the daily operations for multinational companies, such as BMW. In collaboration with the UN Alliance of Civilizations, the BMW Group offers an annual award for organizations that create innovative approaches to intercultural understanding, including interfaith understanding and peace. Among organizations that have won this award is a tour company in the Middle East, which offers new ideas to build bridges and bring cultures together through collaborative Muslim-Jewish tourism in the Holy Lands.

Supporting social entrepreneurs: the business environment provides neutral ground for religious differences to give way to shared concerns of enterprise and economic development. For example, Brazilian social entrepreneur Jonathan Berezovsky, through his company, Migraflix, helps immigrants and refugees start enterprises that empower them and show their value to the local community.

Boosting workforce diversity: when businesses are sensitive to the religious and cultural issues around them, they not only make reasonable accommodations for faith in the workplace, but they can also address difficult unmet social needs. Businesses in Indonesia did this by organizing a mass wedding for interfaith couples who had lived without legal status and with no ready means to become legitimately wed. By obtaining legal status, thousands of interfaith couples can now access the public health service, obtain education for their children, and have expanded opportunities for employment.

I should also mention that the businessman behind the initiative is Y.W. Junardy, a Catholic business leader in Muslim-majority Indonesia.

It’s fair to say that the potential of business to support interfaith understanding, religious liberty and peace is largely unreported, unstudied and untapped. More research and incentivizing programmes would help change that.

First, we need to have a fuller picture of the range, impact and effectiveness of business initiatives to support interfaith understanding and peace.

And second, we need to increase positive incentivization of “double bottom line” enterprises that do social good and make a profit. Possibilities include giving a higher profile to the global programmes like the Global Business & Interfaith Peace Awards, a partnership initiative between my foundation and the United Nations – in fact, most of the business leaders I’m highlighting today were finalists in our 2016 Awards given out during the Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Increasing such knowledge and incentives can inspire and give resources to a new generation of socially conscious business entrepreneurs and peacemakers.

Let me introduce you to several other finalists for the inaugural 2016 Global Business & Interfaith Peace Awards – business leaders from across the global who are advancing interfaith understanding, religious liberty and peace. The religious, geographic and business-type diversity of these businesses and leaders shows that the values of interfaith understanding, religious liberty and peace have universal appeal.

They are doing this in four general ways: through their (a) core business, (b) social investment and philanthropy, (c) advocacy and public policy engagement, and (d) partnerships and collective action.

(a) Core Business. A company can advance interfaith understanding, religious liberty and peace through their core business. This means championing interfaith understanding, religious liberty 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.

Brittany Underwood, Founder & President of AKOLA in Uganda and the USA is an example.

(b) Social Investment and Philanthropy. A company can advance interfaith understanding, religious liberty and peace through social investment and philanthropy. This includes financial and in-kind contributions, and strategic social investment support for NGOs, UN and/or multilateral agencies or directly to affected communities and/or contribution of functional expertise through volunteering efforts.

Fouad M. Makhzoumi | Executive Chairman-CEO, Future Pipe Industries Group Limited, UAE & Lebanon is an example of using his business know-how and resources to erase the conditions that can feed extremism. He’s also been a speaker at the Rimini Meeting nearby.

(c) Advocacy and Public Policy Engagement. A company can advance interfaith understanding, religious liberty and peace through advocacy and public policy engagement. This includes fostering social cohesion and inter-group dialogue and relationship-building in the workplace, marketplace and local community.

Kathy Ireland | Founder & President, kathy ireland Worldwide, USA & worldwide (Iraq, Sudan) is an example of how a business leader advances interfaith understanding, religious liberty and peace through advocacy and public policy engagement through her support of an NGO as well as direct policy engagement.

(d) Partnerships and Collective Action. A company can advance interfaith understanding, religious liberty and peace through partnerships and collective action. This can be done by 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.

Frank Fredericks | Founder & CEO of Mean Communications, used his communications firm to do just this.

Looking Forward:

In a world that is more interconnected than any time in history, religious and intercultural tensions abound. Religious hostilities are sweeping the globe, disrupting societies and economies. However, there are those who are willing to step up and act as agents of change. During the 2016 Rio Paralympics, global business leaders were honored for their innovative work in addressing this problem. From Israeli tour businesses to Chinese Media companies to large Indonesian conglomerates, business leaders all over the world are doing their part to make the world a safer, stronger, and more open place. Come meet these business men and women and new awardees who are overcoming religious intolerance and discrimination at the 2018 Global Business & Interfaith Peace Symposium and Awards in Seoul, Korea, on March 7-8, held during the 2018 PyeongChang Paralympics.

For more information on attending or to nominate a business leader, visit

A Silk Road Legacy: Freedom of Trade & Freedom of Religion

12 Jul, 2017

By Kevin White


For centuries, the Silk Road flourished offering the free flow of trade between the East and the West. It brought silk, paper and ceramic wares to the West. The Silk Road brought furs, metal works, and glass wares to the East.

Along with the free flow of trade, the Silk Road also fostered the free exchange of ideas. Ideas have consequences. Any society which seeks to achieve its full potential must analyze its history as well as the ideas and assumptions underlying society. Who are we as human beings? Where did we come from? What is our purpose? What ideas have worked and why? Which ideas have not worked? Where did we come from and where are we going? How did we get here and how do we get to where we need to go?

Archeology and cultural anthropology are disciplines through which we conduct scientific research to attempt to answer these fundamental questions. To discover – or to rediscover – a lost or forgotten history allows us the opportunity to have a more clear and precise picture of the map of history – where we were, where we are today, and where we should go from here.

The International Conference for Religions of Kazakhstan and Central Asia on the Great Silk Road represents a much needed and bold step in addressing the often overlooked role which religion historically played in Silk Road commerce. …

Kazakhstan has made very positive steps in recognizing the important role religion plays in society. In his 2012 speech outlining Kazakhstan’s 2050 Plan to become one of the top thirty economies in the world, President Nursultan Nazarbayev affirmed the role of religion in development, stating: “We enter a period of our development, when the spiritual issues will have a meaning no less important than issues of economic and material concern.” In affirming Kazakhstan’s commitment to tolerance, he stated: “It is not the States’ role to intervene on the internal affairs of religious communities. We remain steadfastly committed to the freedom of conscience, tolerance of traditions and principles.”

There were many religions along the Silk Road, which until the 14th century coexisted peacefully. When rulers allowed this freedom of religion, protecting the rights of the people, Silk Road trade flourished. This is an important lesson for today as Kazakhstan seeks to serve as a leader in reviving Silk Road commerce. Situated as the geopolitical center between East and West, Kazakhstan has an extraordinary opportunity to serve as the prime mover to bring back to life the Great Silk Road.

Read the full article: A Silk Road Legacy – Freedom of Trade & Freedom of Religion (Kevin White)

Getting Involved With the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation

4 Jul, 2017


MISSION: The Religious Freedom & Business Foundation educates the global business community about how religious freedom is good for business, and engages the business community in joining forces with government and non-government organizations in promoting respect for freedom of religion or belief (FoRB).

Emphasis: The Foundation places emphasis on helping businesses foster interfaith understanding and peace.

VISION: The Foundation envisions a global future of innovative and sustainable economies where freedom of religion or belief and diversity are respected.

ACTIONS: The Foundation accomplishes its work through researchthe Empowerment+ initiativeglobal awardsworld forums, and education on how freedom of religion or belief is in the strategic interests of businesses and societies.

To get involved, please write, email or call the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation: 1A Perry Circle • Annapolis, MD 21402 USA (Tel: +1.410.268.7809;

Unique Role and Mission

The Religious Freedom & Business Foundation is the first organization dedicated to educating businesses about why religious freedom will enable them to be more productive and successful, and how they can effectively incorporate religious freedom in their strategic business plans for the benefit of their stake holders, their employees and society.

The Foundation is a non-partisan charitable organization working with business people, academics, government officials and community leaders from multiple faiths (or of none) to accomplish its mission. The Foundation is a registered corporation and has IRS recognition as a non-profit 501(c)3 organization in the USA. It does not take a position on current political debates.


The Religious Freedom & Business Foundation welcomes individual and institutional membership. To become a member, please contact Brian Grim, president of the foundation.

Membership benefits include:

  • → Full access to all RFBF research and resources.
  • → Monthly RFBF Executive Briefing on latest trends and resources related to religious freedom and business.
  • → VIP invitations to special RFBF events, including the biannual Global Business & Interfaith Peace Awards.

RFBF Membership Levels include Contributor, Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum.

Students from Marriott School’s Ballard Center for Economic Self-Reliance Help Advance Religious Freedom

4 Jul, 2017

To assist with the recent influx of refugees in Europe, during the Fall 2016 semester a team of four BYU students worked with the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation (RFBF) to create a business plan for an interfaith business incubator in Manchester, England.

Pictured: Alex Oldroyd, Ellen Brotherson, and Fred (Wen Jie) Tan were on a Ballard Center Social Innovation Projects team that helped the Religious Freedom and Business Foundation create a business incubator.

The project aims to help refugees integrate into English society and become more self-reliant in their new homes. “The incubator is a place where young people from different faiths can come together and learn not just business skills but also how faith can be a strong motivation for doing well,” says RFBF president Brian Grim. Grim notes that the business plan was useful in helping the very first community-sponsored refugee family to England navigate issues of whether to start a private business or work for an existing business.

The initiative is one of many involving the Ballard Center for Economic Self-Reliance’s Social Innovation Projects, an on-campus internship program that allows students to work with social innovation organizations.

In previous semesters, Ballard Center Social Innovation Projects teams helped RFBF plan and implement Empowerment+, a social cohesion and enterprise initiative in Manchester, England.

Empowerment+ interfaith action groups are communities of people helping each other gain practical life and career skills that focus on more than just finding a job, but on a vocation that is meaningful and fulfilling.

Empowerment+ (plus) is not just about receiving love and help but also about the transformative opportunity to become part of a neighborly faith-inspired community that loves and helps others, including immigrants and refugees.

Empowerment+ has three interconnected interfaith elements: Launching Leaders, Find a Better Job, and My Foundation.

The inspiration for Empowerment+ comes from the famous story about loving our neighbors – The Good Samaritan. Although the Good Samaritan was a foreigner with a foreign religion, his care for the man left to die by the side of the road is the example of love we are called to show to others regardless of their faith or background.

The first class of Empowerment+ graduated in January. Below is a video from the graduation, which was keynoted by the former Manchester United coach, Sir Alex Ferguson.

Advancing Religious Freedom Through Business

4 Jul, 2017

Brian Grim will present the following at a Brigham Young University on July 6, 2017.

Recently, my colleague from Georgetown University’s School of Management, Paul Lambert, and I made the case for why religious freedom is good for business at the Utah World Trade Center. With his permission, I’ll begin by summarizing six points he made:

1. Globalizing World: The world is becoming more religious (Pew expects 80% of world population will consider itself religious by 2050). Secularization theory isn’t right on this. In order to connect with critical stakeholders in a globalized marketplace, religion must be taken into account. This includes recruiting the most talented workforce (many of which come from very religious countries), connecting with customers in religious areas, etc. Think of the tech industry that increasingly built upon the skills of young 25 to 35 year-old Muslims and Hindus.

2. Young talent is increasingly attracted to companies with a “great place to work” reputation. Businesses receive such a distinction in large part for their policies around work-life balance, personal life accommodation (including religion), environment, etc. With an increasingly diverse religious demographic, businesses must build an environment where religious diversity is welcome.

3. Diversity, including religious diversity, increases factors that lead to business success, such as innovation. I am citing your study here: Brian Grim, Greg Clark, Robert Snyder, “Is Religious Freedom Good for Business?: A Conceptual and Empirical Analysis,” Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion, Vol. 10 (2014).

4. Practical and prudent in today’s world. Having policies that embrace religious diversity and create religious accommodation help businesses avoid workplace discrimination, harassment and eventual legal trouble that follows. (Abercrombie case)

5. Religious freedom is associated with greater economic stability and created an environment for economic stability. Economic stability leads to economic prosperity, which leads to increased investment and further business opportunities.

6. Religious freedom is part of the greater trend for equal rights for all. The timing is right for business to act.

Indeed, Freedom of Religion or Belief is an internationally recognized human right. Article 18 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

However, 36% of American workers report experiencing or witnessing workplace religious discrimination, according to a recent Tanenbaum survey, “What American Workers Really Think about Religion.”

The most successful businesses encourage an environment in which employees can bring their “full self” to work. Employees need to feel comfortable being who they are in the workplace, including being true to their core identity and beliefs. That includes recognizing and respecting an employee’s religion and its practice.

In today’s increasingly more competitive business environment, companies will need to draw upon the talent and experience of every employee. They can’t afford to leave anyone out. If they exclude or alienate someone for reasons having nothing to do with a person’s ability to do the job, they might also be excluding the next great business solution or the next great product idea. The very thing a company might need for its success. At the very least, they’ll be missing out on lots of really great talent.

And as companies become increasingly more global, they’ll need employees who reflect the increasing diversity of their customers. They’ll need employees who can relate to the daily experience of customers and who can see the customer point of view. For potentially billions of customers, religious belief and practice are a part of daily life. Having employees who understand that will not only help companies avoid costly missteps, it will also help companies develop products and services better tailed to customer needs. That’s an essential part of being competitive.

The Corporate Pledge

The Religious Freedom & Business Foundation provides a resource to help businesses respect and therefore advance religious freedom: The Corporate Pledge on Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB).

The Corporate Pledge in Support of Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) — which supports religious diversity and freedom in the workplace — sends two clear messages to current and prospective employees: (1) You can work here without changing who you are; and (2) the company respects all employees and will not favor certain employees over others … and that’s good for the business of all.

The FoRB Pledge is one component of a company’s overall strategy to value its employees and increase their loyalty for the benefit of customers and shareholders. The FoRB Pledge is a company’s public commitment to take reasonable steps to ensure that working at the company does not put employees at odds with their deeply held religious convictions.

Supporting Resources:

These documents offer templates and sample language that businesses can use to ensure that freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) is respected by the company in its external and internal dealings.

The sample corporate documents include:

  • – Corporate Charter Statements
  • – Employee Policy
  • – External Policies
  • – Corporate Pledge
  • – Best Practices
  • – Appendix: Draft resolutions of the governing body to approve changes to corporate charters

You can download a non-logo “Company version” of the following PowerPoint for use in your own presentations.

You can insert your own company logo in the top right of each slide.

The FoRB Pledge – Company version


(1) Promoting Sustainable and Innovative Business Through Protecting Freedom of Religion or Belief

[COMPANY] affirms that freedom of religion or belief (“FoRB”) is a fundamental right.* [COMPANY] also recognizes that religious freedom promotes sustainable and innovative businesses, contributes to human flourishing, and results in peaceful and stable societies. For these reasons, and with a vision of a future of innovative and sustainable economies where FoRB and diversity are respected, [COMPANY] strives to be a leader in promoting and protecting FoRB in its workplace and communities. [COMPANY] will not tolerate abuses of religious freedom within its sphere of influence. 

(2) Non-Discrimination and Non-Harassment on the Basis of Religion or Belief

[COMPANY] respects each individual’s rights to freedom of religion or belief, provides equal employment opportunities to all employees and prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion or belief. This prohibition on religious discrimination applies to all aspects of employment including, without limitation, recruitment, interviewing, hiring, training, job assignments, promotions, demotions, compensation, benefits, transfers, terminations. [COMPANY] will take appropriate action upon receiving a report consistent with its general non-harassment and non-discrimination policy.

 (3) Religious Accommodation and Inclusion

[COMPANY] promotes a religiously inclusive environment where each employee’s beliefs are recognized and respected, but where religion or belief is not a matter of force or coercion. Consistent with this policy, an employee may seek, and [COMPANY] will provide, a reasonable religious accommodation that does not create an undue hardship on [COMPANY]’s business if his or her religious beliefs, observances, practices, or requirements conflict with his or her job, work schedule, [COMPANY]’s policy or practice on dress and appearance, or with other aspects of employment.

(4) Protecting and Promoting Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) in Our Communities

[COMPANY] strives to be a leader in promoting and protecting freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) among its stakeholders and in the broader community. [COMPANY] gives priority to business partners, suppliers, and contractors who share [COMPANY]’s values, including FoRB. [COMPANY] supports their efforts to promote these values through their business activities. Among other practices that are consistent with this policy, [COMPANY] will strive to support local, national and global initiatives that promote FoRB, and may refrain from doing business with or investing in companies and governments that restrict FoRB.


Soft Launch of the Pledge

CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters, Senator Gordon H. Smith, gave the keynote at the Washington DC Jan. 12th launch of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation’s Corporate Pledge (photos by Maria Byrk/Newseum Institute).

The Religious Freedom & Business Foundation co-hosted this event with the Newseum Institute’s Religious Freedom Center and the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding in anticipation of the President’s annual declaration of January 16th as Religious Freedom Day, calling upon Americans to observe this day through appropriate events and activities.

High level panelists* discussed how businesses can successfully negotiate religious freedom and workplace issues. In an era when millennials are especially concerned for fairness and equality for all, respecting the religion and beliefs of employees is not only fair and good policy, but is also good for business.

Sen. Gordon Smith - Business_&_Religious_Freedom_Event_1.12.2015_106At the event, CEOs, representatives of major companies, heads of trade and commerce organizations, and the media were introduced to a nonpartisan corporate pledge on religious nondiscrimination and inclusion in the workplace. This new resource and its associated resource documents will align with core American values of religious freedom while creating a more inclusive work environment that leverages religious diversity.

*Other speakers included Joyce S. Dubensky, Esq., CEO, Tanenbaum; Richard T. Foltin, Director, National and Legislative Affairs in American Jewish Committee’s Office of Government and International Affairs; Charles C. Haynes, Vice President Newseum Institute / Religious Freedom Center and a senior scholar at the First Amendment Center; Dwayne Leslie, Associate Director in the Department of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty and Director of Legislative Affairs for the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists; Daniel Mach, Director, ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief; and Zainab Al-Suwaij, Executive Director and a co-founder of the American Islamic Congress (AIC).

G20 Interfaith Summit Certificate Course

12 May, 2017

The G20 is an international forum for the governments and central bank governors from 20 major economies. Each year, faith is addressed at the G20 Interfaith Summit. This year, the G20 Interfaith Summit Association is proud to offer an add-on certificate course.

On Saturday, 17 June 2017, Brian J. Grim of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation will offer a one-day Empowerment+ Facilitator training and certificate programme. The training will give access to largely free resources that benefit refugees, immigrants, and others in need.

Self-reliance & Empowerment Course for Refugees

The Empowerment Plus Facilitator programme will train and certify participants to facilitate two of the three Empowerment+ courses, Find a Better Job and Launching Leaders, and will introduce attendees to the Master of Business on the Streets (MBS).*

  • — Saturday, June 17, 09:30-16:00
  • — University of Potsdam, Germany
  • — €275/$290, incl. general admission to G20 Interfaith Summit (15-17 June)

Participants will receive a certificate of completion and a permit to use the Empowerment+ resources, most of which are totally free. All proceeds to go to the G20 Interfaith Summit Association.

In January, Sir Alex Ferguson was on hand to give out certificates of completion to the Manchester UK participants of the interfaith course – a mix of Catholic, Muslim and Mormon students.

The attendees at the ceremony consisted of the mentors on the course (also from a range of religious traditions), and dignitaries.

Dignitaries present included Roman Catholic Bishop John Arnold (Salford Diocese), former Greater Manchester Chief of Police Sir Peter Fahy, Mohammed Ullah (honorary Muslim Chaplain to the Manchester Universities), Mormon Bishop Sean Roberts, Launching Leaders USA Executive Director Michael Leonard, Greater Manchester Citizens Community Organiser Furqan Naeem,  Catholic Chaplain Fr Tim Byron SJ, and Brian Grim, President of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation.

* The Religious Freedom & Business Foundation offers these course together with partners, including Launching Leaders and Interweave Solutions (MBS), both non-profit charitable organizations working worldwide. My Foundations and Find a Better Job are interfaith versions of a successful self-reliance program operated worldwide by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) to help their own members. The Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, a registered non-denominational charity in the United States, is grateful to the LDS Church for the opportunity to adapt the materials in collaboration with multiple faith communities for this interfaith initiative.




Religious Freedom in Indonesia: Address by Amb. Robert Blake

28 Apr, 2017

Religious Freedom in Indonesia

By Ambassador Robert Blake,*  April 27, 2017

Roundtable discussion hosted by the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, Indonesia’s Leimena Institute, and the Newseum Institute’s Religious Freedom Center.

It is a pleasure to participate in this discussion of Religious Freedom in Indonesia.  Let me extend my thanks to the organizers and the Newseum.

This session is timely because religion played an important, perhaps decisive role in the Jakarta gubernatorial elections, as Islamic hardliners rallied support against the sitting Governor Ahok who is a double minority so many wonder whether this portends a longer term trend that will erode Indonesia long tradition of tolerance.

Indonesia’s founding fathers were firm that Indonesia must define itself as a pluralist, multi-religious state when they declared independence in 1945.

— The constitution guarantees freedom of religion and the right to worship according to one’s own beliefs.

— Indonesia recognizes six religious groups: Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Confucianism.

— But members of unofficial groups have the right to establish a place of worship, register marriages and births, and obtain national identity cards.

The State Department and respected independent groups such as the Wahid Institute in Indonesia have documented a decline in tolerance in recent years.

This reflects several factors in my view:

— An increase in discrimination and attacks against unrecognized sects such as Shia and Ahmadis;

— A failure of the State enforcement institutions such as the police to take quick action to stop such attacks and a tendency for the police to view their role as one of preventing violence rather than protecting legal and constitutional rights;

— A tendency on the part of many politicians and even influential groups such as Mohammedia and Nahdatul Ulama to not condemn such actions and the activities of hardline groups such as the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) for fear of being portrayed as anti-Islamic; and

— The growing use, or misuse of social media.

Overall, however, I remain convinced that the vast majority of Indonesians are tolerant and believe in religious freedom.  But it is very important that politicians of all stripes unite now to reaffirm the importance of tolerance and religious freedom as President Jokowi did a few days ago.

This matters not just for Indonesia but for the wider Islamic world because Indonesia must sustain its role as an example of tolerance at a time when much of the rest of the Muslim world faces great challenges to democracy and religious freedom.

* Ambassador Robert Blake served for 31 years in the State Department in a wide range of leadership positions. In 2009, he was nominated by President Obama to be Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, serving from 2009-2013, for which he was awarded the State Department’s Distinguished Service Award. From 2006-2009, he served concurrently as U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives. Prior to that, he served as Deputy Chief of Mission in India from 2003-2006, where he was named the worldwide DCM of the Year by the State Department. Most recently, from 2013-2016, he was the U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia, where he focused on building stronger business and educational ties between the U.S. and Indonesia, while also developing cooperation to help Indonesia reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Ambassador Blake heads McLarty Associates India & South Asia practice, supporting their Southeast Asia and Central Asia practices.

Photos: Maria Bryk, Newseum

Engaging Global Leaders

18 Apr, 2017
Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Beginning this week (at the National Press Club in Washington DC) and over the coming months (from Utah to NYC to Oxford University to Cascais to Italy to Germany to South Korea), I’ll be speaking on the socio-economic benefits of religious liberty at global and national events involving top business, government and religious leaders.

You can find the details by following the links below. Also, at the end you can see my report from Syrian refugee camps in Lebanon and our global film competition.

I hope our paths may cross along the way!

Brian Grim, RFBF President


Engaging Business Leaders on Trust

Brian Grim will chair a plenary on developing trust at one of world’s foremost gatherings of business leaders, the Hoarsis Global Meeting, May 28-29, in Cascais, Portugal. Joining Grim are Cardinal Peter Turkson, Canon Sarah Snyder, former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and Elder Neil L. Andersen (pictured, clockwise from top left).

Washington DC

Grim will discuss the cost of freedom denied on April 20 at “Under Caesar’s Sword,” a one-day symposium on contemporary Christian responses to persecution. National Press Club, Washington DC.

Q – Nashville

Brian Grim & Byron Johnson show how faith-based organizations renew civil society at a time when 46% of Americans believe religion is part of society’s problem. See them on Apr. 26 in Nashville at the Q Conference, Nashville, an annual meeting of young leaders intent on envisioning Christianity’s future role in society.

Positive Peace, Oxford

What role does business play in promoting interfaith understanding, religious freedom and peace? Join Grim at Oxford University on May 6th for the annual OxPeace conference to find out.

World Trade Center

On May 18, Brian Grim will speak to the board of the Utah World Trade Center encouraging them to support the Corporate Pledge on Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB). The pledge was soft-launched last year at the Newseum’s Religious Freedom Center in Wash. DC.

South Korea

Grim will participate at the end of June in a UNESCO working group in Seoul, South Korea, to address the rise of nationalism and its impact on peace, cohesion and global citizenship — vital topics given the situation in North Korea today.

G20 Interfaith Summit

Grim will speak in Germany at the Interfaith G20 Summit (June 15-17), which brings together experts on economy, law and politics, as well as global leaders to highlight the key role that religion and religious freedom plays in promoting Sustainable Development.

Emerging Leaders

Grim will address 50 emerging global leaders on the economic benefits of freedom of religion and belief at Cumberland Lodge, Windsor, July 23, sponsored by the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office. One aim is to develop a network of high-potential students engaged on the topic.

Syrian Refugee Camps

The scale and depth of the tragedy is hard to comprehend: millions facing little or no chance of employment, education or mobility. Amidst this great need, there are reasons for hope.

Global Film Competition Now Open

Religious Freedom Film Competition Promo from RF Film Competition on Vimeo.

G20 Interfaith Summit – Germany

17 Apr, 2017

Brian Grim will speak in Germany at the Interfaith G20 Summit (June 15-17), which brings together experts on economy, law and politics, as well as global leaders to highlight the key role that religion and religious freedom plays in promoting Sustainable Development. Grim has previously participated in Interfaith G20 Summits in Brisbane and Istanbul.

The impact of Interfaith Summits has been acknowledged by G8 leaders in the past and G20 leaders of today. The Interfaith Summit will bring together experts on economy, law and politics, as well as global leaders from various religious, professional and humanitarian backgrounds to highlight the key role that religion plays in promoting aspects of achievement of the United Nation’s post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals that Germany has chosen to highlight during this year’s G20 Summit. Special attention will be paid to issues surrounding the refugee crisis, addressing issues of religious extremism, and addressing other issues such as the environment, where religious voices have much to contribute.


The objective of the G20 Interfaith Summit is to facilitate peace and harmony between people of all religious and philosophical traditions while exploring ways to work together to strengthen human development understood in the broadest sense. This is important because religion plays a major role in global events today, but its role is complex and can easily be misunderstood or even overlooked as a factor on the global stage. By focusing on a series of concrete issues that are much in the public eye, we hope to suggest a variety of ways that religion can contribute to enhanced responses to crucial social challenges.


The annual G20 Interfaith Summit brings together opinion leaders such as scholars, lawyers and political leaders with faith and interfaith leaders from around the world for three days of discussion and dialogue as a substantial contribution to the G20 Economic Forum. Such a gathering showcases the scholarly and societal contributions of faith traditions and philosophies from around the world. Furthermore, this conference creates opportunities for communication and relationship building and raises the profile of participating communities, groups and organizations. Summary videos and programs of previous events can be viewed here.

For more information, check out the concept paper for the 2017 by clicking here. Details continue to be added, so please check back often.

South Korea – UNESCO

17 Apr, 2017

“Nationalistic perspectives and their implications for global citizenship education”

28-29 June 2017 (Seoul, R.O.K.)

Brian Grim will participate at the end of June in a UNESCO working group in Seoul, South Korea, to address the rise of nationalism and its impact on peace, cohesion and global citizenship — vital topics given the situation in North Korea today.

Organized by UNESCO-Headquarters, the Korean National Commission for UNESCO (KNCU) & the Asia-Pacific Centre of Education for International Understanding (APCEIU)


There are strong indications that in various regions of the world populist nationalisms and economic protectionism are on the rise.

According to recent reports and studies, globalization in trade is in retreat. Sentiments of support towards nationalist parties and movements (extreme and not so extreme)  are being fueled by sharp concerns about unemployment rates and rising income inequalities, as well as negative attitudes towards globalization and immigrants[i].

These political and economic trends seem to be profoundly opposed to what UNESCO’s Global Citizenship Education has been promoting, namely an education that should aim to empower learners to assume active roles to face and resolve global challenges and to become proactive contributors to a more tolerant, inclusive, peaceful and secure world.

Paradoxically, in this context, we are witnessing an unprecedented global commitment to quality education and its pivotal role in lifting the disenfranchised out of poverty and accelerating the achievement of peace and sustainable development[ii].

In order to explore these contrasting trends and related issues, UNESCO is convening a consultation seminar with a small group of experts from around the world.

[i]; 19 November 2016 and; 13 Nov 2014; The New sick Man of Europe : the European union ; Pew Global Attitudes Project, PewResearch Center. May 13, 2013; 26 July 2014;;   9 March 2017

[ii] During the global post-2015 MDG consultation process in 2013-2014 a “good education” was voted as the top priority, before better health care and good governance in MY WORLD, a United Nations global survey aiming to capture priorities for the next set of global goals to end poverty. See: . This trend supported unprecedented process that led to the integration of Global Citizenship Education in the SDG Framework under Goal 4 (Target 4.7)