Working for workplace religious diversity, equity & inclusion


Monthly Archives: May 2015

Foundation Contributes to Bi-Partisan Religious Freedom Amendment in Senate Trade Pact

30 May, 2015

Senate-passes-IRF-tradePRESS RELEASE, WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford’s (R-OK) Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) amendment (#1237) that promotes international religious freedom passed the Senate unanimously by a vote of 92 to 0 on May 18, 2015. The amendment states that the government will “take into account conditions relating to religious freedom of any party to negotiations for a trade agreement with the United States.”

In the lead-up to the vote, Sen. Lankford drew upon the research of Religious Freedom & Business Foundation president, Brian Grim, for the rationale supporting the connection between religious freedom and socio-economic development. Deseret News also made note of the contribution of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation’s research to the bi-partisan bill.

Grim, commenting on the outcome, said, “We are very pleased that the work of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation has contributed to something that is not easy to achieve – the unanimous support of all parties on legislation.” Grim added that “because we do not take positions on political issues, this may be one reason that we can contribute to consensus on issues that are of common concern to all.”

Grim and Brian Walsh recently elaborated the business case for religious freedom in an op-ed aptly titled, Religious Freedom is Good for Business.

real-clear-religionThe Trade Promotion Authority amendment adds a provision to the overall negotiating objectives outlined in TPA, requiring the Administration to take religious freedom into account whenever negotiating trade agreements. If signed into law, this would be the first time in history that religious freedom considerations would be a requisite for international trade discussions with other countries. The original co-sponsors of the amendment are Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), who is also Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Senator David Vitter (R-LA).

During a floor speech on the amendment, Lankford said, “Our greatest export is our American value. The dignity of each person, hard work, innovation, and liberty. That’s what we send around the world. It has the greatest impact.”

“We believe every person should have protection of the government to live their faith, not the compulsion of government to practice any one faith or to be forced to reject all faith altogether. It’s one of the reasons that Americans are disturbed by the trend in our courts and military and public conversation. It’s not the task of government to purge religious conversation from public life. It is the task of government to protect the rights of every person to live their faith and to guard those who choose not to have any faith at all.”

Chinese-Secret-under-threatIn its 2015 annual report, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom recommended that the State Department redesignate China as a Country of Particular Concern, and urged the same designation for Vietnam, because these are countries where severe violations of religious freedom are perpetuated or tolerated by their respective communist regimes.

China, relative to itself, has had an increase in religious freedom when compared to the days of the Cultural Revolution when all religion was strictly forbidden. This relative opening has been part of the secret of China’s economic miracle. However, recent laws and government restrictions are taking a sharper turn toward more restrictions. As Brian Grim argues in his latest Weekly Number blog, this could threaten the secret behind China’s sustainable economic growth: religious freedom and diversity. For the details, see the blog and new research article.

Religious Freedom = Concern For The Good Of Others

22 May, 2015

Greetings from London …


Dear Friends and Colleagues,

As people of goodwill take different positions on religious freedom, it is essential to focus on a central value of religious freedom: freeing people of faith to do good. 

Contrary to one way of viewing religious freedom, it does not mean freedom for extremists to conduct violence and corrupt peaceful spirituality. Quite the opposite. Research clearly shows that religious freedom leads to reduced violence and increased peace.

Religious freedom does mean being concerned for the good of others. Indeed, to care for – even love – one’s neighbor is really radical. But this is the opposite of extremism. Radical caring has the power to combat radical hate, especially when it’s a planned proactive strategy rather than a reactive remedial one.

I invite you to explore – on our newly launched website – how the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation is putting to practice this vision of religious freedom, including with a pilot Empowerment+ project in London, where I am this week.

Brian Grim
RFBF President

Role of Religious Leaders in Addressing Violent Extremism

20 May, 2015

By +John Cardinal Onaiyekan, Catholic Archbishop of Abuja – Nigeria

Prepared comments for the 3rd World Forum on Inter Cultural Dialogue, Baku – Azerbaijan, May 18-19, 2015. In addition to his duties in Nigeria, Cardinal John Onaiyekan is a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the Role of Faith.

This is the first in a series of articles where religious & business leaders speak out about countering violent extremism. For more on the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation’s work on countering radicalization, see the Empowerment+ Initiative.


Violent Religious Extremism (VRE) has in recent times become a topic for frequent discussion at many inter-faith gatherings and conferences. Some of us in this panel have been encountering ourselves on such occasions across the continents. This is not surprising. Rather it has become necessary since VRE has become a matter of grave concern in our contemporary world to both civil authorities and religious communities and institutions. The exploits and atrocities of terrorists of all kinds of names on rampage in many parts of the world today, claiming to be acting in the name of God and for the promotion of a religion, are a major challenge to governments and an embarrassment to religious authorities. This came out very clearly in the recent, first of its kind, two-day event convened at the UN General Assembly at which high level spokespersons of the major world religions robbed minds with the country representatives of the nations of the world in the hall of the General Assembly. The entire proceedings were facilitated by the UN High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations, and chaired by the incumbent President of the General Assembly and the Secretary General of the UN, both in person. It is good that we are now not only taking this matter seriously but also acknowledging that there is need to bring many stakeholders, including and especially religious authorities, to reflect and act together on this matter that is of concern to us all.

We must commend and congratulate the government of Azerbaijan for its commitment organizing forums like this one here in what has become known as the “Baku Process”. Some people may say that there are too many meetings, with talking and no effective action. But meeting and talking is by means a waste of time – or money! Talking and reflecting together leads to a change of attitude. This leads to a change of behaviour, which in turn leads finally to a change in the world. We cannot be tired until there is peace and harmony in our world.

Non-violent Religious Extremism

Permit me to start my contribution here with a point I raised already in the UN event mentioned above. VRE has its origin and context in an environment of widespread generally accepted non-violent religious extremism. Where religious intolerance holds sway with a rejection of the other, the ground is fertile for the emergence of VRE, even without carrying guns and bombs. Christianity and Islam are particularly susceptible to this kind of intolerance because of the sometimes mutually exclusive absolute doctrinal claims of each of them. In our contemporary world, characterized by an ever increasing globalization and pluralism of faiths, the challenge is on us all to find ways to reconcile our absolute claims with acknowledging the right of others to their own absolute claims, in a spirit of mutual respect and freedom. Religious leaders can no longer abdicate their responsibility to review their doctrines and dogmas along these lines, and pass this down the line to the local teachers and preachers, and ultimately to the general adherents at the grass roots. The good news is that the people at the grassroots are often not the problem. I am proud to claim that my Church, the Catholic Church has been working along these lines for the past 50 years following the Second Vatican Council. Pope Paul VI, in the 60s, laid down the principles to guide this process, that while the essence of the content of the Catholic faith remains ever true and unchangeable, the way it is expressed and presented, both in words and ritual gestures, can change, and has always changed, with the times. Other religious communities have to embrace his task, according to their own principles and traditions. There can be no peaceful living together in our contemporary world unless we find a way, not only to tolerate, but also to respect and accept one another. The era of every nation with its religion is over and gone. This calls for new attitudes and rules for living together in peace and harmony. We note that this is not only not impossible, but that it is already happening in many parts of the world. A good example is the revision of school religious text books and catechisms to give children a positive orientation in this regard from early childhood.

Charity Begins at Home

If our world is to move effectively towards a new era of respect for legitimate pluralism and the right to be different on the basis of a free conscience, then “charity must begin at home”.

Religious communities have to get used to differences within their respective religious families. The Christian community has accepted this reality for many centuries. The times when heretics had no right to exist, and had only the choice between falling in line with rigid orthodoxy or get roasted at the stake are long gone. The aim of the world ecumenical movement has been to maintain some measure of mutual respect in one faith family despite our differences of doctrines and church institutions. Islam and other world religions cannot delay indefinitely this kind of process.

More significant and urgent is the national dimension of this discussion. Every nation will need to readjust its laws and institutions in such a way that citizens can enjoy equal rights as citizens, irrespective of their religious affiliation. This is the situation in most countries of the world. But there are a few significant exceptions, where a particular religion is considered by law as the official religion of the state, where as a result, the adherents of other faiths are allowed at most the status of second class citizens. A nation which does not respect religious pluralism within its own borders can hardly sincerely and effectively demand it on a global level. The time has come to go beyond political politeness and diplomatic niceties, and call a spade a spade wherever religious freedom is denied or restricted for whatever reason or excuse.

Religious leaders should be in the front line of the defence of freedom of religion, not only for their own adherents, but for all others too. This is particularly necessary where persons belonging to a religious minority suffer discrimination. For example, Christian religious leaders in a predominant Christian country should spear-head action in defence of Muslim minority rights, just as Muslim religious leaders in a predominant Muslim country have a duty to defend the religious rights of the Christian minority. This is what will bring about peace and harmony among religious communities, and in the society at large.

Response to Religious Provocation: Scope and Limits

The recent tragic event connected with the attack on Charlie Hebdo publication in Paris has brought to world attention the delicate question of the scope and limits of response to religious provocation. We must continue to insist on the need to respect our respective sensitivities as regards what we all hold sacred. In particular, religious leaders must give leadership in refraining from insulting or ridiculing the religion of other people. We should be able to freely propagate our own religion without condemning others.

But when our religion is insulted, is there no limit to our response to such provocation? This is the issue raised by the Paris tragedy. Freedom of religion includes the freedom not to have any religion. Can we tolerate the annoying expressions of those who do not share our own sense of the sacred? The extreme case is where laws prescribe a death sentence for alleged “blasphemy”. There surely must be a better and more humane way to show our honour and respect to God. It is all the more reprehensible when generalized violence, including killing of people and destruction of places of worship are unleashed on communities far away from the scene of the provocation. We saw this in Nigeria after the Swedish cartoons and in the Niger Republic after the Charlie Hebdo incident. These are the things that give bad name to religion.

Heavy Negative Historical Baggage

We have to acknowledge that we are carrying a heavy historical baggage of intolerance and mutual suspicion. VRE has a long history. Still fresh in many minds are the stories of the Jihads and Crusades, traditionally told in glorious and heroic terms. We have to retell these stories of horrendous violence and destruction in a way that we may learn not to repeat the mistake of the past. I am aware that significant efforts have been made along these lines in many Christian circles. I will be glad to be informed of similar efforts in Muslim circles.

We cannot forget the dark history of many wars fought presumably in the name of God, in the promotion of one religion or the other. Today, religious leaders all over the world must adopt a zero tolerance attitude to inflicting violence on people for reasons of their religious opinions. We all need to agree that “religion is proposed, never to be imposed”. Our recent Popes have often insisted that to kill people in the name of God is a great blasphemy, and an insult against the Almighty God and Creator of every human person. It is in any case futile to impose religion by force. One may enforce compliance but never conviction.

Freedom of religion and of conscience, after the right to life, is the most important of all human rights. Our contemporary world that speaks so much of human rights must not close its eyes to the violation of this particular human right wherever it is denied or restricted. Those who are struggling for their rights in this regard deserve the support of all, especially when they are using non-violent means. This has been the heroic story of true martyrs all through the ages who have endured sufferings, deprivations and even death, rather than deny their faith.

Misuse of Religion

In many instances, religion has been co-opted into battles for other agenda of violence. Here we have cases of the abuse and misuse of religion. Religious leaders need to consistently liberate religion from such misuse, despite the patronages of political and social forces. There is a great challenge here for religious leaders in places with long tradition of close ties and cooperation, or sometimes even collusion, between religious and civil authorities. How can religious institutions positively cooperate with civil authorities for the greater good of the people, while retaining the freedom to give spiritual guidance to politicians and others who wield power? This is an ever pressing challenge.

Promoting Spiritual Values

The genuine role of religious leaders in the state is to positively promote spiritual values and virtues like justice, honesty, solidarity, modesty, care of the weak and the poor and similar concerns. These are areas where they can legitimately cooperate with civil authorities, in the service of the people. These are also fertile grounds for interfaith cooperation.

Seeking Common Grounds

If interfaith cooperation is to take place, religious leaders must constantly seek and discover the common grounds that they share in terms of religious convictions, moral principles and spiritual values. It is on the basis of such shared values that common action can effectively be undertaken. The attention of the international community is now being focussed on sustainable development. Religious leaders must join in and be admitted into the definition of the concrete content of this grand idea. They also have a major role in bringing the ideas to the awareness of the people at the grassroots whom they teach and preach to in their places of worship. Here again, their contribution will be all the more effective if carried out in interfaith cooperation. Areas of special concern for them would be the moral dimensions of projects envisaged and the importance of peace based on justice, on the local and global levels.


There are many people in our world today who refuse to see anything good in religion. They claim that it has been responsible for a lot of problems and evils in our world all through history. They therefore claim that the world would be much better off without religion. Unfortunately, there have been many instances when religion has been perceived as the cause of many wars and conflicts, both in history and even today. There are many self-proclaimed people of religion who have given religion a bad name.

But the same history has shown that the rejection of religion from human affairs has hardly ever created a paradise on earth. Furthermore, scientific evidence has shown that even today, more than 85% of the human race claims that they are guided by some form of religious conviction. It is therefore quite futile to ignore religion in human affairs.

The challenge is for this silent majority to rise up and save religion from the bad image that the few extremists are giving to it. This challenge falls especially, but not only, on the religious leaders. All stakeholders must join hands to put religion in a position to make its very valid contribution to the well-being of humanity. In fact, those who care to look at things objectively have confirmed the valid role which religious communities have been playing in the lives of the peoples of the world. Where there are no undue restrictions, religious communities and their leaders have proved their ability to reach down to the most needy and neglected. Here, Christianity and Islam must take a major responsibility, since they are the religions with the widest following. It is certainly the will of God the Creator of all humanity that we live in peace with one another in a safe, peaceful and harmonious world. We must all be part of the project to achieve this.

I want to end with an observation in form of a concluding appendix. In this forum and in some other similar ones that I have participated in, the discussion is often presented in form of relationship between “Islam and the West”. To me, this formulation is inaccurate, misleading and unhelpful. I ask myself where I come into this picture, since I am neither Muslim nor Western. Comparing Islam with the west is like comparing oranges with apples. Islam goes well beyond the Middle East and Arab lands, and what we now call “the West” has lost or abandoned much of its traditional Christian character. If we are to make progress in these matters, we would need to clarify better these overlapping and often conflicting identities. Those of us who do not fall within the parameters of “Islam and the West” have our own story too. This could provide some valid lessons for the rest of the world. But is anyone listening to us?


Religious Freedom is Good for Business

19 May, 2015

real-clear-religionby Brian Grim & Brian Walsh (in Real Clear Religion)

Growing threats against Americans’ religious exercise and identity call for a new generation of education and advocacy on behalf of religious freedom for all faiths.

President Obama extolled the virtues of our nation’s religious civil rights and liberties in this year’s Religious Freedom Day proclamation. “From many faiths and diverse beliefs,” the president said, “Americans are united by the ideals we cherish. Our shared values define who we are as a people and what we stand for as a Nation.”

Mr. Obama noted that our unified national commitment to fundamental rights for all has not come cheaply. Rather, it is due to the labors of multiple “generations of patriots” who resolutely fought “through great conflict and fierce debate…to secure and defend these freedoms.”

Among a list of troubling indicators that today’s civil rights advocates must address are studies by the independent Pew Research Center. Continue reading at Real Clear Religion.

Religion and Prosperity: Religious Freedom a Competitive Asset for Brazil

19 May, 2015

IstoÉ Dinheiro - Brian GrimReligion and Prosperity

American researcher shows that the value of religious freedom can become a competitive asset for Brazil

by Rosenildo Gomes Ferreira, in ISTOÉ Dinheiro, a Leading Brazilian Business Magazine

Translation from Portuguese by Natália Prigol  

During their entry into to Mozambique’s mining market, the director of the  Brazilian mining company Vale refused to allow the local witchdoctor to bless the sites of their coal exploration. The director’s decision was reversed, according to legend, after a tragic accident that caused the shutdown of one of the mines. Outcome: They called the witchdoctor back and did not have further problems. True or not, this story helps to illustrate an issue that is increasing in importance in the business world – the effect of religious freedom on the economy and in investment decisions around the world.

“Countries where religious tolerance prevails are more prosperous,” says Brian Grim, president of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation. He was recently in São Paulo, where he participated in a Seminar about the theme, which brought together business people and religious leaders of different faiths. His agenda also included a previous visit to Brasilia, where Grim met up with the Vice President Michel Temer. According to the American researcher, Temer was surprised to learn that Brazil ranks at the top among the 25 countries based on Grim’s study about religious freedom, including above China and the United States.

The recent data illustrates that in 2012 U$ 65.2 billion in direct investments entered in the country. “Brazil is an example to the world in this matter and could use this fact to emphasize religious freedom as one more argument to attract foreign investments,” says Grim. The researcher of the Institute on Culture, Religion & World Affairs knows what he’s talking about. The number of investment funds which invest their resources from religious values, are multiplying. One of them, of a Catholic orientation, is managed by Credit Suisse.

The debate on religious freedom and its importance as a component of business decisions has already gained ground in the World Economic Forum and at the United Nations (UN). Through his foundation, Grim collaborates with the United Nations Global Compact Business for Peace platform. In his recent work, “Is Religious Freedom Good for Business?: A Conceptual and Empirical Analysis,” he draws a picture of the impact of the theme on people’s lives. For this, the researcher crosses data from numerous sources that make evident the deleterious effects of radicalism. One example is the use of anti-blasphemy laws to take out market competitors, as has happened in Pakistan.

“This legal provision has been used as an aggressive tool for business subterfuge,” he said. For Grim, although common sense identifies religious freedom as a western value, this component is also present in Middle East and Asia. Examples are Dubai and Singapore, respectively, that do not have abundant natural resources such as oil. “The growth of these countries depends on a strong exchange business, made by people from all over the world,” he says.

His report [with the UN Business for Peace] also shows that many private companies have already put in their strategic plans the issues of religious diversity. Coca-Cola is one of them. To strengthen ties with various Indonesian communities, the soda maker has set up a social partnership with the city of Jakarta to finance collective interfaith marriages. In Thailand, the board of DuPont answered immediately an unusual request made by employees who claimed they would work more reassured if they had a Spirit House built on its factory grounds. “By valuing the religious beliefs of its employees, the company shows respect to each one of them,” he says. “And that’s good for business as it helps to improve morale and the organizational climate.”

Tolerance: A virtuous cycle for the economy

14 May, 2015

Awaken-the-millionaire-withinIndividual action and tolerance are basic building blocks for social balance

by Carlos W. Martins, entrepreneur, author of Awaken the Millionaire Within

As the new year began, the world was paralyzed to witness a tragedy caused by intolerance and religious extremism. I am referring to the sad episode carried out against the Charlie Hebdo news magazine in Paris, where terrorists victimized twelve people and thereafter caused the death of five more.

Regardless of the motives of the action taken by the group that took the lives of these people, it reveals a reality that is rarely considered by the media. Extremist groups have persecuted and murdered people who profess a faith different from theirs, doing it in the name of God.

This leads one to consider a few things very carefully: how can religious and cultural conflicts be contained? And how do atrocities such as these impact the local and world economy? These are somewhat complex issues which do not have a single answer or solution, but rather, a set of solutions. Besides, these issues affect every one of us. 

Regarding the first issue, I believe that the first step toward harmonious coexistence is the promotion of tolerance for differences and of freedom of expression and religion. Respect for one’s fellow man, for his needs and peculiarities is an important and definitive step toward the resolution of conflicts. Such an attitude consists of putting oneself in the place of another.

In Brazil, we represent an example of what freedom of religion and expression is. In spite of existing differences, we are a continental country, with a population of over 200 million people who profess the most diverse types of faiths and, even so, we have lived relatively free of religious conflicts. If this tolerance were absent from our midst, just imagine what would happen under the following incident.

A few years ago an alleged religious minister decided to insult Catholics by kicking the statue of Our Lady of Aparecida, on his TV program broadcasted nationwide. He repeatedly quoted the passage: Thou shall not make unto thee graven image. Thou shall not make unto thee graven image. Imagine if the Catholics throughout the country were to begin attacking this specific religious group, their places of worship, feeling they were justified for defending their devotion to Our Lady of Aparecida, the patron Saint of Brazil!!

Thus, individual action and tolerance are basic building blocks for social balance. In addition, it should be mentioned that a number of studies support the idea that, even in a country considered to be secular, religion impacts (for better or for worse) economic results, since it influences the entrepreneur’s individual characteristics as well as his decision making. It even has an influence on the nation’s economy, with a job market which does not choose an employee based on his or her faith, but on his or her competence.

On the other hand, where such freedom is limited, a profession of some particular religious belief may mean the exclusion of entire families from the economic scene, leaving them to fend for themselves. This would represent an economically weakened marketplace, with a reduced rate of social development. 

I fail to see any advantage to intolerance and to the use of religion in the commission of atrocities such as those carried out in France. To the contrary: I am convinced that the ability to accept cultural differences that exist in the world and peaceful living side by side is the foundation upon which humanity is built.

On a personal note, tolerance and respect embody the behavioral model that every entrepreneur must foster, because, in successful teams, the leader’s example will be reflected in those being led, creating a virtuous cycle. Freedom of expression, of conscience and of religion must be lived in practice and not only be one more article to fill up space in the Declaration of Human Rights. As is the case of faith without works, theory without practice is dead.

I present this modest reflection so that each of us may understand that the furtherance of the social and economic well-being of the country and of the world depends, in large part, on individual actions. It depends on how much I understand and accept the fact that I have a commitment, not only to myself, but to my fellow man.


The Economic Dividend and Cost of Being a Religious Minority

14 May, 2015

Econ-cost-minoritySummary: Germano Maifreda, from Milano University, finds that recent historiographies offer a new interpretative analysis of how the treatment of the Jewish community as a minority, especially in developing Europe, prepped the community not only for wider economic success in the mainstream, yet also had a positive but limited communal economic return. Maifreda finds that where an ethnic community is restricted through outside policy decisions, the community is able to adapt and create a fluid and productive market within its walls – which can breed further outside hostility towards its success. However, when offered the opportunity to join the mainstream, the security of this inside market is lost without guarantee of an immediate economic benefit.

Today, historians study the ties existing between the status of religious minorities and the development of particular patterns of business behavior in past centuries. A number of studies have shown how religiously homogeneous groups, suffering various degrees of legal and social discrimination, also derived certain advantages from their status as a minority. The most important of these advantages consisted of their having access to the networks of ethnic solidarity and trust which a discriminated minority might enjoy, as well as to connections and resources which result from their being a part of a far-flung diaspora.

How should we view these ‘advantages’ inherent in the condition of discrimination? Studying them can help us in understanding the context of religious discrimination, both in the past and in the present.


As Roger Waldinger has written in his seminal studies, “ethnicity is a resource insofar as the social structures that connect members of an ethnic group to one another can be converted into business assets.” According to the Ellen Auster and Howard Aldrich’s thesis, moreover, ethnic solidarity provides greater generalized informal support for business than just a potential protected market of customers. As scholars have noticed, the most salient feature of early business efforts by immigrant groups was their dependence on an ethnic community for support. Support is provided at least on two levels: informal support from friends and relatives of aspiring business owners, and support from the larger networks of ethnic institutions, including religious associations, fraternal organizations and other small businesses.


Throughout the modern world, the Jewish economic influence has often been exaggerated, both by anti-Semites and by philo-Semites educing material manifestations of Jewish ‘chosenness’. Yet, although the results of new research is, as Derek Penslar has written, “a minimizing of Jewish economic exceptionalism and a depiction of Jews as trading people,” we can not fail to note that “Jewish economic difference remained prominent in the Jewish self-consciousness”, and that “signs of Jewish economic uniqueness remain and demand explanation.”

A growing number of studies have shown that the economic history and behaviour of the Jews did not derive from some hypothetical anthropological ‘Jewish character,’ and had very little to do with internal developments in the Jewish moral code or religious ethics. Recent historiographies no longer considers the argument of legal restrictions on Jewish economic activities, if taken individually, to be a compelling explanation of the Jewish occupational structure during the ancient and medieval periods. Responding to the particular conditions in which both Gentile and Jews found themselves, Jewish business structures were the product of an elaboration on the part of both the Jews and the Gentiles to these conditions, serving internal end external ends, in a continuous interplay between Jewish and non-Jewish cultures, societies, and institutions.


This historical construction of Jewish business behavioral patterns are usefully expressed in a simplified circular model describing the interaction between the negative external effects of specialized policies of religious discrimination in relation to the correlating internal benefits developed by the restricted minority group.

 Among the key measures and policies of religious discrimination introduced in Europe between the Middle Ages and the early modern age are the laws forbidding Jews to own land or practice certain professions and businesses; the various forms of comparatively excessive taxation on Jewish communities and individuals; the means of expulsion, deportation or forced living in ghettos; the various limitations on geographical and social mobility; and all other laws and policies whose primary or secondary goal was the economic discrimination against the Jewish population.

With the reality of a Jewish dispersion, the community maintained an ethnic solidarity, social cohesion, and commercial institutions, which consistently favored mobility over a wider area and, with it, the geographic extension of kinship ties. In turn, this contributed to the internationalization of Jewish business relations and international mobility, favoring the activities for which those features had a competitive advantage, such as large-scale trading and international bank lending.


Typical benefits of ethnic enclaves, such as residential segregation or concentrated living, took place in Renaissance Italy: here the Jews, from the mid-XVIth century to the French Revolution, were largely forced to live in ghettos. The papal decrees marked a turning point in the hostile economic and social policy of the peninsular states towards the Israelites, forcing them and their business activities to be concentrated in ghettos. This fact, while economically discriminatory towards the Jews – re-enforcing stereotypes of differentiation, increased their communities’ reliance and consumption of their own business ventures, and this internalized market benefit was accessible almost exclusively to Jewish traders. The economic benefits resulting from the ethnic specialization of the Jewish market, combined with the hostility of Christian competitors (alongside the discriminatory representations of those benefits generated by the Christian majority), inevitably led the oppressors to develop new forms of exploitation and differentiation. Thus, increasing the size of the loyality within the ethnic group and continued institutional discrimination itself.


Religious discrimination enhances ethnic identity. Ethnicity may result in business advantages. These benefits may strengthen religious discrimination – both because they are seen with envy by the majority, and because they represent a material advantage for the members of the minority. It’s important that those wishing to work towards religious freedom are aware of this vicious cycle, especially those with a business focus, or doing business in areas that are strongly characterized by ethnic factors. Under certain conditions, the same discriminated individuals will not have an incentive to abandon the condition of discrimination. As, they would lose the economic advantages of being part of the minority, without immediately acquiring the benefits of the mainstream economy.

Germano Maifreda

University of Milan


Auster, H. Aldrich, ‘Small business vulnerability, ethnic enclaves and ethnic enterprise’, in R. Ward, R. Jenkins (eds), Ethnic Communities in Business. Strategies for the Economic Survival (Cambridge Mass.: Cambridge University Press, 1984), pp. 39–55.

Penslar, ‘Foreword’ in G. Reuveni, S. Wobick-Segev (eds), The Economy in Jewish History: New Perspectives on the Interrelationship between Ethnicity and Economic Life (New York-Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2010), pp. vii–x.

Waldinger, ‘Immigrant enterprise in the United States’, in S. Zukin and P. Di Maggio (eds), Structures of Capital. The Social Organization of the Economy (Cambridge Mass: Cambridge University Press, 1990), pp. 395–424.

Religion Matters Symposium discusses how religion is good for business

13 May, 2015

RELIGION MATTERS 2015, Group PictureUS Military Chaplains — Active (18) and National Guard (7) — Partner Nation Chaplains (14), Non-Governmental Organization Leaders (13), Local Clergy (5), Academics (5) and US-SOUTHCOM Command and Staff elements (15) all joined together for 3 days of presentations, professional exchange and collegial dialogue on how “Religion is good for Business,” “How Religion and Politics mix,” and “How best to consider Religion as a factor for analysis, a source of healing, a place of hope and an encourager of reconciliation.”

Keynote speakers, Dr. Brian Grim President of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, and Mr. Knox Thames, Director of Policy and Research at the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), engaged the assembly; challenging assumptions and offering thoughtful perspectives for the future.

April 21, 2015 Doral ANA RODRIGUEZ-SOTO | FC Command Chaplain Col. Michael Lembke poses with most of the keynote speakers at the Religion Matters II conference, from left: Brian Grim, president of the Religious Freedom and Business Foundation; Archbishop Thomas Wenski; and Imam Asim Hafiz, Islamic religious advisor to Ministry of Defence of the United Kingdom.Command Chaplain Col. Michael Lembke poses with most of the keynote speakers at the Religion Matters II conference, from left: Brian Grim, president of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation; Archbishop Thomas Wenski; and Imam Asim Hafiz, Islamic religious advisor to Ministry of Defence of the United Kingdom.

Participants enjoyed a ‘cultural day’ in Miami, receiving information from Rabbi Lipskar at the Shul, and Fr. Sosa of St. Joseph’s Parish. The group also received briefings from unit Commanders at Homestead Air Force Reserve Base.

Dr. Grim and Mr. Thames not only gave presentations but they fully participated in discussions during Focus Group Sessions. We were also happy to welcome The Reverend Thomas Wenski, Archbishop of Miami and Imam Asim Hafiz, Islamic religious advisor to the Chief of the Defence Staff, United Kingdom who offered remarks and participated in the symposium.

JFHQs Chaplains from Arkansas, Florida, Wisconsin, Massachusetts and one Assistant from Texas; well supported by Colonel Tom Hanley, National Guard Liaison/ SPP Director for USSC, and Chaplain Peter Lawson of the National Guard Bureau, contributed greatly to the entire symposium and worked toward increased State Partnership Program involvement.

Symposium Mission: Participants (Partner Nation Military Chaplains and Clergy who work with Military) develop a better understanding of how Religion Matters by building networks of religious people, caring for the needs of military members and their families; bringing together different countries for mutual dialogue and action in order to discover commonalities towards a consensus document on religious rights and religious relationships.

Objectives: To gain increased awareness, lessons learned and specific examples of (a) the role of religion in the Soldier’s Life; (b) the role of the Chaplain in the Military Context; and (c) the ability of religion to influence individuals and institutions towards peaceful coexistence.

Pictures from the Symposium

Coverage by the Archdiocese of Miami:


Oldest Mosque Hosts Religious Freedom & Business Celebration

9 May, 2015

Event kicks off focus on Religious Freedom and Business

By Claudia Augelli (see original press release at the Religion News Service

Brazil celebrated a first place finish this week. No, not in soccer, but in religious freedom. Surprised? If yes, you are in good company. This finding from a recent study by the Pew Research Center also surprised Brazil’s Vice President Michel Temer, as religious, political and business leaders just learned in Sao Paulo.


Last week, Latin America’s oldest mosque, Mesquita Brasil, in Brazil’s financial capital of São Paulo, brought some 700 leaders together for a gala celebration where Muslims, Jews and Christians dined side-by-side to commemorate its status as a leader in religious freedoms. The theme was, “Brazil a voice to the world.” The event is the first of a series to bolster the role of business in supporting religious freedom.

Among the 25 most populous countries, Brazil has the lowest government restrictions on religious freedom, lower in fact, in the United States, where a study by the Pew Research Center finds that restrictions have been rising.

Brazil is peacefully undergoing one of the most dramatic religious shifts in the world today. Most of the shift has been from Roman Catholicism to energetic and conservative forms of Pentecostalism and other minority denominations Grim said. In other parts of the world, active and conservative religion is sometimes equated with extremism and political destabilization.

But Sheikh Abdel Hammed Metwally, religious leader of Mesquita Brasil, highlighted the positive example of interfaith understanding and peace in Brazil. “This will be the first of many meetings”, he said, and “given the importance of the subject we want to share it with more people and show the world how Brazil stands out in leading position, by tolerating and peacefully accommodate the most diverse creeds. “

Nasser Fares, the lay president of Mesquita Brasil considered it an honor to welcome such an eclectic group in a celebration, highlighting Brazil as an example to other nations.  Ricardo Cerqueira Leite, president of the Association for Religious Freedom and Business (ALRN) also noted that Brazil is ahead of many countries to express support and respect for peaceful religious diversity. “We are essentially a nation with natural vocation to deal with religious differences,” he said, “and to conduct ourselves in ways that highlight these values as an example to the world.”

Although Brazil has the world’s largest Catholic population, religious freedom is most keenly appreciated by religious minorities. The Mormon church, for instance, has benefited from this freedom with Brazil being home to more than a million members. Among the speakers was Elder D. Todd Christofferson, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Delivering remarks in Portuguese, Christofferson congratulated Brazil for this significant distinction. “I encourage you to hold fast to the freedoms you have forged at home and to lead courageously in promoting religious freedom on the world stage, he said. “The need to protect and preserve religious liberty — in a fair and balanced way that also protects others’ fundamental rights — is acute.”

Brian Grim, president of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, noted that one of the most important factors to the peaceful navigation of the past decades of religious change is the position taken by the majority faith – Catholicism – toward religious freedom. Grim observed that the clear and unequivocal Declaration on Religious Freedom, Dignitatus Humanae, promulgated in 1965 by Pope Paul VI during the Vatican II was important because the “dominant faith was bound by its doctrine to a higher spiritual calling than protecting mere membership rosters. It seems clear that, in this case, this doctrine produced peace not conflict,” according to Grim.

Brazilians at the grassroots level plan to promote religious freedom worldwide through a series of initiatives, including hosting awards during the Rio 2016 Olympics that recognize the best advances and innovations by businesses in improving respect for religious freedom, interfaith understanding and peace.

Additional news coverage (in Portuguese):

Separation of Church and Cubicle – Wharton Business School Analysis

6 May, 2015


Religion in America is once again undergoing a period of intense examination. The so-called religious freedom bills bubbling up in Indiana, Arkansas and many other states may rightly be considered thinly veiled reactions to same-sex marriage and the breathtaking speed with which it has gained acceptance.

But these bills might mask a trend of the past two decades among those with sincerely held religious beliefs: Workers are increasingly bringing theology into the office, factory, retail space and public sphere and expecting greater and sometimes surprising forms of accommodation. As a result, religious conflict in the American workplace is up. “It’s the fastest growth area in discrimination,” says Robert E. Gregg, an attorney with Boardman & Clark in Madison, Wis. In terms of litigation, “religion is growing faster than sex and race.”

Read the full article at Wharton.