Working for workplace religious diversity, equity & inclusion


As 800,000 from 70 countries gather, Religious Freedom & Business Takes the Stage

3 Aug, 2015

Updated, September 2, 2015 

As 800,000 people from 70 countries gathered for the annual Rimini Meeting in late August, Fouad Makhzoumi, a leading Arab billionaire industrialist, joined EU vice president Antonio Tajani, RFBF president Brian Grim and others to address how religious freedom fosters development and counters extremism.

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On 21st August, Religious Freedom & Business Foundation president Brian Grim spoke on how economic development – including the foundation’s Empowerment+ initiative – can help counter violent religious extremism at a major international conference in Rimini, Italy. Pictured with Grim at left are Fouad Makhzoumi, a leading Lebanese industrialist, philanthropist and statesman, and Antonio Tajani, Vice-President of the European Parliament.

The Rimini Meeting attracts up to 800,000 people from across Italy and the world each summer. The session on economic development as a way to counter violent extremism was held in collaboration with the European Parliament Information Office in Italy and the European Commission Representation in Italy.

Also see the comments of Fouad Makhzoumi, a leading industrialist, philanthropist and statesman. In 1997, Mr. Makhzoumi founded the Makhzoumi Foundation, a private Lebanese non-profit organization that contributes through its vocational training, health care and micro-credit programs to Lebanese civil society development.

Other speakers included Lucio Battistotti, Director of the European Commission Representation in Italy; and Michele Valensise, Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

The panel was introduced by Roberto Fontolan, Director of the International Center of Communion and Liberation, a global movement in the Catholic Church which has the purpose of forming its members in Christianity in order to make them coworkers in the Church’s mission in all areas of society.

Grim, commenting on the meeting, observed, “Having top business and government leaders participate was a perfect demonstration of how the mission of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation is being accomplished.” The RFBF mission is to educate the global business community about how religious freedom is good for business, and engage the business community in joining forces with government and non-government organizations in promoting respect for freedom of religion or belief (FoRB).

Grim focused his comments on the foundation’s Empowerment+ pilot program with St. Mary’s University in London to counter radicalization. He said, “Integration and empowerment can help those at risk of radicalisation to follow a different course. This pilot initiative will field interfaith teams that (1) reach out to and mentor at-risk individuals, imparting empowering skills and networks by using an an empowerment+ toolkit to be used in groups, plus (2) catalyze sustainable businesses that increase integration and resiliency of non-integrated communities where extremism can grows (see rationale). Because the initiative will be staffed by volunteers from groups in civil society, it will be low cost but have high impact because it has the potential to equip many of thousands of volunteers to build relationships with many more thousands of people at risk.

The Empowerment+ initiative recognizes that people from any religious background are susceptible to becoming radicalized. For instance, the killing of a British Army soldier, Fusilier Drummer Lee Rigby, in London on the afternoon of 22 May 2013 was by two men named “Michael” who were former Pentecostal Christians that became self-styled violent Jihadists. Therefore, the initiative focuses on helping people from all religious backgrounds.

rimini-stageParticipant Bios