Working for workplace religious diversity, equity & inclusion


Monthly Archives: September 2015

Interfaith Understanding Contributes to Peace and Sustainable Growth, UN

28 Sep, 2015

Brian J. Grim, President, RFBF

Following Pope Francis’ visit to the United Nations, I joined U2 rock star Bono, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, together with and 350 business and private sector leaders to discuss how we can and already do promote the newly adopted sustainable development goals.

In his opening comments, the Secretary-General specifically called for increased private sector partnerships. For instance, the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation has partnered with the UN Global Compact’s Business for Peace platform to hold the Global Business & Interfaith Peace Awards during the 2016 Rio Olympic and Paralympic games. The Awards will recognize business leaders who are promoting interfaith understanding and peace – foundational elements of inclusive growth.

To see how business can be a powerful force supporting interfaith understanding and peace, see our joint publication which Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon helped launch last year together with the Indonesia Global Compact Network, led by Y.W. Junardy, who also attended the private sector forum.

Ban Ki-moon IndonesiaPrivate-Sector Potential

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated: “The United Nations has transformed its relationship with the private sector in the past decade and a half. Many Governments also support the complementary role that business can play to advance sustainable markets and build trust. Now I call for even stronger commitment to partnership, especially on our most pressing challenges. In the realm of peace and good governance, companies are taking actions that help – like fostering inter-religious understanding in the workplace and enacting zero tolerance policies on corruption.”

The forum, part of the UN Global Compact initiative, focused on the role of the private sector in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals, which were adopted on Friday and include a 15-year global plan of action to end poverty, reduce inequalities and protect the environment.

The meeting included CEOs committed to this vision from industries ranging from housewares giant IKEA – with its mission to make everyday life better – to AVIVA, the largest insurer in the UK with businesses across Europe, Asia and Canada – with its mission to be a good ancestor inspired by its own ancestors that set up the company in 1696.

Click here to see examples of what companies are doing to make the world a better place while making a profit.

Religious Freedom & Sustainable DevelopmentReligious Freedom, Poverty Alieviation & Sustainable Development

Religious freedom also addresses poverty, facilitating faith groups to join together to help the most vulnerable. Last week while I was in London, we saw significant progress toward piloting our Empowerment+ initiative, which links business and job training with interfaith spiritual principles that help people become self-reliant, contributing members of society. St. Mary’s University will work with the foundation to pilot it in East London, one of the UK’s most religiously and ethnically diverse neighborhoods.

Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights defines Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) as follows: “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.”

An oft used definition for Sustainable Development is: “Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (Our Common Future, Oxford University Press, 1987).

So, what might be the connection between these seemingly very different concepts? The Religious Freedom & Business Foundation is publishing a new series of analysis and data on the connection between religious freedom and sustainable development.

Related articles

Goal 1 - Poverty   Goal 16 - Peace   7 ways Religious Freedom helps Sustainable Development


Complementarity of Catholic Social Teaching and Mormon Self-Reliance Teachings

18 Sep, 2015

By Pablo Talavera

Empowerment-PlusThe Religious Freedom & Business Foundation has been licensed to create an interfaith version of the Self-Reliance Curriculum developed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS Church) in order to pilot the Empowerment+ initiative in London to counter extremist radicalization. The initiative will be carried out in collaboration with St. Mary’s University, the U.K.’s largest Catholic university.

In this short article, I briefly explore how the self-reliance concepts apply to Catholic Doctrine, Catholic Social Teaching and Catholic Inter-religious Dialogue.

The LDS Church promotes the well-being of its members by elaborating on the principal of becoming self-reliant, that is: empowered, integrated, contributing, loving, serving and successful members of society. This revealed truth – in their terms – is manifested in temporal and spiritual forms. The LDS Church has created a toolkit (curriculum) composed of five manuals that help develop the important skills to reach self-reliance. (To explore manuals and videos click here.)

The five printed curriculum materials comprising the Self-Reliance Toolkit are: (1) My Path to Self-Reliance; (2) My Foundation: Principles, Skills, Habits; (3) Starting and Growing My Business; (4) My Job Search; and (5) Education for Better Work.

The first manuscript is a guideline to critically examine one’s life to determine what step he or she should take next, whether it is the path of education, finding another job, or starting a business, all with the goal of becoming self-reliant.

The second manuscript helps people put into practice principles of faith, education, hard work, and trust in the Lord to better enable people to receive the temporal blessings promised by the Lord. The 12 lessons are: (i) Exercise Faith in Jesus Christ; (ii) Use Time Wisely; (iii) Be Obedient; (iv) Manage Money; (v) Work: Take Responsibility; (vi) Solve Problems; (vii) Become One, Work Together; (viii) Communicate: Petition and Listen; (ix) Persevere; (x) Show Integrity; (xi) Seek Learning and Education; (xii) Stay on Task, Receive Ordinances (i.e., sacraments); (xii+) Final Activity: Go Forward and Serve.

The remaining three manuscripts are topical and serve as one of three tracks an individual would be directed toward based on the initial self-assessment.

The theological understanding of self-reliance comes from earlier teachings and revelations in the LDS Church and is grounded in temporal and spiritual truths. LDS President Thomas Monson has taught that self-reliance is ‘the ability, commitment and effort to provide the necessities for self and family’ and that ‘[it] is an essential part of temporal and spiritual well-being.’ The spiritual understanding of self-reliance lies in the ability to practice generosity or charity — ‘only when we are self-reliant can we truly emulate the Savior in serving and blessing others,’ said Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. The spiritual understanding of self-reliance then, lies in love for others—a principle that comes across any religion, tradition or humanitarian practice. While the temporal component underlines the dignity of the human person and the ability to provide a clear way to bring about well-being in the holistic sense of the human person. As described by the official site of the LDS Church here, self-reliance embodies temporal well-being through: education, health, employment, family home production and storage, and family finances.

Having provided the above quick synopsis of the theological belief of Self-Reliance in the LDS Church, let us now explore how the Self-Reliance Toolkit corresponds to Catholic Teaching. First, four main theological principles are outlined throughout all manuscripts: (1) Love of God and Love of Neighbor; (2) Faith in God and His Providence; (3) The Divine Dignity of the Human Person; and (4) God’s will and Calling: Talents and Gifts. The theological understanding of self-reliance builds upon these four theological truths.

The LDS Church holds a firm belief that the teaching of self-reliance is ‘not an end in itself but a means to an end’ and the end should be the spiritual truth of Love of God and love of neighbor. By being self-reliant, one is able to help his or her neighbor in temporal means, in the same way, through non-temporal means; one is able to pass down spiritual understanding and revelation to his or her neighbor. Self-reliance is then the means through which we care and love our neighbor.

The self-reliance toolkit also expresses the firm belief of providence in God. While the theological understanding of self-reliance asks of you to be ‘independent’ in the means in which you direct your life, this does not oppose the theological belief that everything comes from God. In fact, the self-reliance toolkit expresses continuously that God provides, but one must ask, seek and knock.

The divine dignity of the human person is a principle that the LDS Church articulates through the Self-Reliance Toolkit as well, with the intention of underlining the primacy of well-being. The human person holds high self-respect and self-esteem as created in the image and likeness of God, and this self-evident truth is set forth by expressing the need to provide for temporal needs. These needs are education, health, employment and financial stability.

Finally, the theological understanding of God’s will and calling can be a vast one. However, the Self-Reliance toolkit narrows this down on the principle of what God has handed-down to you in gifts and talents. Because there is a heavy emphasis on service, the toolkit explores real questions, such as tasks people perform well and helping explore them. Another approach to this question is also through desire and zeal to partake in something—another way of saying God’s calling you to do something. The end again is to obtain fulfillment and at the same time to put the talents and gifts to service for your fellow neighbor, equipping him or her to also reach their own fulfillment and capacity—the Toolkit expresses that talents are to be put in used for the betterment of a community.

To see how these principles unfold through the use of LDS Church scripture and how they pertain to New Testament scripture as well, we have developed a draft document:

Interfaith Faith Principles Scripture Comparison (DRAFT)

This draft document quotes LDS scriptures found in the Self-Reliance Toolkit and it shows how the New Testament scriptures upholds these theological principles. The curriculum is intended to be inter-faith and will provide theological background for other religious traditions as well.

Outlining how the principle of self-reliance ties into these four theological truths — (1) Love of God and Love of Neighbor; (2) Faith in God and His Providence; (3) The Divine Dignity of the Human Person; and (4) God’s will and Calling: Talents and Gifts — the correlation to Catholic Teaching is evident and complementary – there is no contradiction between the Self-reliance principle and Catholic social teaching. In fact, Catholic Social Teaching and Catholic Doctrine add to the understanding of these truths.

For the intent of summarizing Catholic Teaching, only few documents will be mentioned that aim and address these self-proclaims truths. The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church explicitly outlines all of these principles in full length. Chapter 3 outlines the human rights that each individual possess in virtue of ‘being of image and likeness of God.’ Chapter 6 gives insight on the dignity of work and rights of workers, Chapter 7 talks about the economy well-being highlighting that ‘wealth exists to be shared,’ declaring as well the right to private property and business initiative.

In addition, the LDS Self-Reliance Toolkit is a great asset for inter-faith work. The Empowerment Plus Initiative that seeks to counter radicalisation with this toolkit by the application of it across faiths and tradition, sets forth a great opportunity to build upon Second Vatican Council in The Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue: Dialogue and Proclamation, specifically in the forms of dialogue as it is prescribed in this document, the dialogue of life, the dialogue of action, the dialogue of theological exchange and the dialogue of religious experience.

Jason Smyth Confirms Title as World’s Fastest Paralympian in Rio

10 Sep, 2015

IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Goodwill Ambassador for the Global Business & Interfaith Peace Awards, Jason Smyth, has confirmed his title as the world’s fastest Paralympian.

On Brazilian National Day, 7th September 2015, Jason Smyth crossed the finish line to be crowned ‘Fastest Paralympian on the Planet’. In the photo, Jason celebrates the win (see BBC coverage).

The race, organised by the Rio 2016 Paralympic Organising Committee, was part of a celebratory weekend of Paralympic sport, marking one year to go until the opening ceremony of the Rio Games. The top Paralympic sprinters from each category came together to determine who the fastest sprinter was. Taking part were Evan O’Hanlon of Australia (T38), Petrucio Ferreira (T47) and Felipe Gomes (T11) of Brazil, Jason Smyth of Ireland (T12) and Richard Browne (T44) and David Brown (T11) of the United States. This was the first time sprinters from different Paralympic categories raced head to head.

Jason comfortably won his heat on Sunday September 6th, crossing the line in 10.63. This result cemented Jason’s reputation as the dominant force in global Paralympic sprinting.

In the showcase final, Jason lined up in lane three; alongside Richard Browne (USA), Evan O’Hanlon (Australia) and the home favourite Petrucio Ferreira (Brazil). Jason lead from the start and took the title with a time of 10.73, finishing a meter and a half ahead of his nearest rival.

Jason Smyth and RFBF president Brian Grim recently got together before the race (see picture).

“I am honoured to be appointed as a Goodwill Ambassador and look forward to progressing the relationship between business and interfaith understanding. Just as sport creates a common bond between athletes, our shared faith, morals and ethics can create a similar bond when it comes to business.” – Jason SmythSmyth-Grim

Winning the title capped a wonderful 10 day visit to Rio de Janeiro. Apart from training and competition, Jason also took advantage of his time in the ‘Marvellous City’ to undertake outreach and to promote understanding of Paralympic sport in local communities. During these activities, Jason met with hundreds of school children and teenagers, visited a favela/ slum community to talk about the transformative effect of sport and discussed realising your potential with a large youth organisation.

Jason’s visit to Brazil was organised and facilitated by the Rio2016 Paralympic Organising Committee. In a visit to their headquarters, Jason discussed Rio’s readiness for the Games, the promotion of ticket sales, community engagement and education with a number of the Directors. The organising committee thanked Jason for his assistance, allowing them to gain insight from an elite International Paralympic athlete.

Dominating the media coverage of the event, Jason was featured in all the main sports pages and TV segments. In recognition of his local popularity and friendship with Brazilian athletes, Jason was sought after by local and international media, completing numerous interviews for print, TV and radio.

Jasonwin2Jason is pictured with Brazil’s Terezinha Guilhermina, Paralympic sprinter in the T11 category, and one of the faces of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. Jason would like to thank the Rio 2016 Paralympic Organising Committee for the invitation to compete in this unique race, as well as all the assistance and support received during his visit to Rio de Janeiro. He looks forward to returning in the near future, and of course, to competing for gold in the 2016 Paralympic Games.

Jason was born and grew up in Ireland. He was diagnosed with an eye disease at 9 years old which has reduced his vision to under 10%. In spite of this, he has been blessed to have achieved some fantastic things in life thus far. He won gold medals in both the 100m and 200m In Beijing 2008 at the Paralympic Games whilst breaking both world records.

At the Paralympic Games in London 2012, he repeated these achievements and won gold in both the 100m and 200m, again setting new world records and becoming the fastest Paralympic athlete ever.

He narrowly missed out on making the 2012 Olympics by 0.04s. This was the first attempt in his quest to be the first visually impaired athlete to make both Games in the same Olympiad which I hope to achieve in Rio 2016.

Jason, pictured below, chats to potential future athletes at the Instituto Francisca Paula de Jesus School in the Meier neighbourhood, Rio de Janeiro.

Jason is married and a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, making him a religious minority in Catholic-majority Ireland. He looks forward to being part of an interfaith Paralympian team of global Goodwill Ambassadors for interfaith understanding and peace, which is in the works. More to come, so stay tuned.