Working for workplace religious diversity, equity & inclusion


Monthly Archives: February 2016

Foundation cited prominently in Taiwan Religious Freedom Declaration

24 Feb, 2016

Taiwan DeclarationThe Religious Freedom & Business Foundation’s research is cited prominently in Taiwan Religious Freedom Declaration: “Research by the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation indicates that the advancement of freedom of religion or belief has a direct correlation with the advancement of democracy, basic human rights, economic prosperity, and thriving civil societies.”

The Declaration for Religious Freedom was personally launched by the President (Su Jia-chyuan, pictured standing) and Vice President (Tsai Chi-chang, on right) of Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan, or Parliament (國會, guóhuì), together with former Taiwan Vice President (Annette Lu, center),  in Taipei, on February 19, 2016. (See below, Grim and VP Lu.)

During the deliberations, RFBF president Brian Grim made the case that “Religious freedom is good for business & business is good for religious freedom” at the Asia Pacific Religious Freedom Forum (APRFF), an invitation-only gathering of parliamentarians, government representatives, civic and religious leaders from across the globe who are committed to advancing religious freedom in the Asia Pacific.

Grim focused his comments on how religious freedom is an economic asset in the Asia-Pacific region.

During the deliberations, attended by representatives of dozens of governments and country representatives addressed the mounting challenged to religious freedom.

Below is the Declaration, as released on February 19. A final version with all signatories is forthcoming.

VP Annette LuTaiwan Declaration on Religious Freedom

Whereas the universal right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion is protected through international law as defined by the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Whereas reports by non-governmental organizations, such as Freedom House and government agencies such as the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom indicate, religious freedom and related human rights abuse in the Asia Pacific region continue to deteriorate, and threaten regional security and stability.

Whereas the International Panel of Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion or Belief (IPPFoRB) and the Inter-Governmental Contact Group for Freedom Religion or Belief are building and strengthening global efforts to promote this fundamental freedom.

Whereas research by the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation indicates that the advancement of freedom of religion or belief has a direct correlation with the advancement of democracy, basic human rights, economic prosperity, and thriving civil societies.

Whereas Taiwan has proven to be a model for the Asia Pacific region in promoting human rights, including freedom of religion or belief within in its borders and abroad, and is a strategic location for coordinating human rights initiatives in the Asia Pacific region.

Whereas religious freedom advocates from both government and non-governmental sectors and religious leaders gathered in Taiwan representing 27 countries collectively commit to advancing freedom of religion or belief and related human rights in the Asia Pacific. 

Whereas restrictions on freedom of religion or belief have directly contributed to forced immigration and increased number of refugees fleeing government sponsored or tolerated persecution, and subsequently created humanitarian crises in the Asia Pacific region.

Thus, we the signed declare a commitment to establish and reinforce existing networks of religious freedom advocates dedicated to promoting freedom of religion or belief in their respective countries and in the Asia Pacific region, including the creation of both governmental and non-governmental mechanisms to promote freedom of religion or belief and related human rights in our respective communities and countries as a whole.

Further declare a commitment to identify opportunities for partnership with religious and government leaders and representatives from non-governmental organizations and other religious freedom advocates in order to build strategic relationships to promote freedom of religion or belief in the Asia Pacific region.

Further declare a commitment to coordinate and expand advocacy efforts to advance freedom of religion or belief in the Asia Pacific region, including through diplomatic engagement among governments, interfaith cooperation among religious leaders, and representatives from non-governmental organizations and academic institutions.   

Further declare a commitment to respond to immigration and refugee issues, including providing safe-haven and human services for individuals and communities affected by restrictions and violations on religious freedom and related human rights. 

Further declare a commitment to an awareness of the socio-economic benefits of advancing freedom of religion or belief and an inherent pledge to utilize this knowledge in our respective communities and countries and throughout the Asia Pacific region.

Further declare a commitment to publicly condemn any act of intolerance, discrimination, persecution, or violence perpetrated in the name of religion, and to protecting the rights of religious minorities or other religious communities restricted from teaching, practicing, worshiping or observing their religious traditions.

Further declare that freedom of thought, conscience and religion is an inalienable human right, encompassing the right to hold or not to hold any faith or belief, to change belief, and to be free from coercion to adopt a different belief, and that to be fully enjoyed other incorporated rights must also be respected, such as the freedoms of expression, assembly, education, and movement.

Therefore, the signers of the Taiwan Declaration urge all governments, religious institutions, academic institutions, and non-governmental organizations to actively advance freedom of religion or belief by adopting formal written commitments and public statements to upholding freedom of religion or belief in their respective communities and countries.

Brian Grim Spoke at British Parliament on Religious Freedom and the Economy

14 Feb, 2016

Big-BenOn 2 March 2016, a seminar held at the UK Parliament, and hosted by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Baha’i Faith, heard that there is a strong correlation between religious freedom, economic freedom, and other civil political freedoms.

An emerging body of research is suggesting that ensuring such freedoms within business could not only address a major social ill, but also be an unrecognized asset to economic recovery and growth.

“These findings are useful in our discussions with business,” said panelist Professor Brian Grim, President of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation. “And there’s a lot that the business world can offer to the human rights community.”

Business leaders and entrepreneurs, it was suggested, might develop a long-term interest in engaging with this area of the international human rights discourse, while their perspectives on these matters might also add an important dimension to the understanding of government and parliamentarians.

Shannon“Business is the crossroads of culture, commerce, and creativity. What brings everyone together and produces a successful service, innovation, or production is a common goal,” said Prof. Grim, who highlighted the efforts of one major automobile manufacturer which, realizing it employs people from almost 140 countries, offers an annual award for intercultural and interfaith innovation.

The seminar, which attracted parliamentarians, civil servants, academics, human rights activists, business professionals, and faith community leaders was opened by Jim Shannon MP (pictured), who also chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief.

“Religious freedom is a fundamental component of peace and stability,” Mr. Shannon said. “Without religious freedom, talented people are pushed away.”

The matter needs to move up the political agenda, Mr. Shannon said, to ensure greater economic prosperity, stability, and security.

Also on the panel was Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. She said, with intolerance increasing around the world, this commitment is needed more than ever.

Anelay(Pictured: Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Minister of State at the Commonwealth Office, addressing the Seminar on Freedom of Religion and Economic Prosperity, held at Westminster, 2 March 2016. With intolerance increasing around the world, she said the commitment to freedom of religion and belief is needed more than ever.)

“Freedom of religion or belief is not just an optional extra alongside the broad spectrum of human rights. It is a key human right in and of itself,” she said. “Where freedom of religion or belief is not fully respected, it follows that democratic values and the rule of law are not fully implemented.” One of the keys to success is education, she said. “We need to ensure that children appreciate from the earliest age that everyone must be valued equally.”

Another panelist, Dr. Nazila Ghanea—Associate Professor of International Human Rights Law at the University of Oxford—stressed the importance of every individual having the freedom to decide whether or not to adopt a religion or belief.

“The prerequisite to freedom of religion and belief is the freedom to independently investigate the truth and adopt a belief, be it religious or not,” said Dr. Ghanea.

Referring to the Baha’i International Community document Freedom to Believe, Dr. Ghanea quoted, “The primary task of the soul will always be to investigate reality, to live in accordance with the truths of which it becomes persuaded, and to accord full respect to the efforts of others to do the same.”

Dr. Ghanea asked how such values can be advanced, noting that efforts to transfer standards across different cultures can lead to resistance.

“International standards need to be digested in a meaningful way and people need to make them their own,” she said. “Consultation is a very important way of trying to ingrain values in neighborhoods and societies.”

Participatory discussion groups were then held where innovative ideas were explored to enhance awareness, support religious freedom, and equip businesses with tools and ideas.

The seminar is intended to be the first step in a longer process to build a deeper conceptual understanding of issues of freedom of religion or belief in British political life and society.


Rt Hon Baroness Anelay DBE, Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Professor Brian J Grim, President, Religious Freedom & Business Foundation

Dr Nazila Ghanea, Lecturer in International Human Rights, University of Oxford

The seminar will feature a panel discussion with the Minister and academic experts followed by facilitated workshops to draw on the views and knowledge of all those attending. Light refreshments will be served on arrival and between the panel and the workshops.

This event is intended as the first of a longer process of activity to build a deeper conceptual understanding of issues of freedom of religion or belief in British political life and society.

Date: Wednesday 2 March

Time: 09.00 am – 13.00 pm

Location: MacMillan Suite, Portcullis House, SW1A 2LW


UK Parliament March 2 2016Religious freedom, or the lack of it, has emerged as one of the major challenges to human rights in the early 21st century. International developments including intra-state conflict, state-sponsored repression and terrorism have increased as drivers for religious intolerance across the world and particularly in territories affected by the conflicts that have intensified in recent years.

In an increasingly interdependent world, the transnational links between religious communities and diasporas allows hostilities from conflicts in one part of the world to increase tensions in other lands. These events have infused momentum for the protection and promotion of the rights of freedom of religion or belief, including for those of no faith. Whilst religious diversity is being denuded from some parts of the planet, it is growing in other parts of the world, including Europe and North America.

Tensions between religious minorities and host communities are posing questions of what model any given society should pursue towards greater social cohesion and integration. This seminar will examine assumptions underpinning the concept of freedom of religion or belief and identify barriers to the full acceptance of this right at the level of a universal value.

Throughout the event, innovative ideas that equip business communities with tools, which have the potential to enhance awareness and to support religious freedom will be shared. The seminar aims to offer a contribution to the wider discourse on freedom of religion or belief, and how this relates to economic prosperity.

Please RSVP to to confirm your attendance.

Brian Grim Spoke at Vatican International Leaders Forum

14 Feb, 2016

UPDATED: March 2, 2016: Brian Grim spoke on the connection between religious freedom, sustainable development and mercy at this month’s fifth International Leaders Forum at the Vatican. His comments were delivered at the Pontifical University Urbaniana on February 28.

Pope_Francis_Brian_GrimGrim’s talk is titled:

Mercy, Sustainable Development and Religious Freedom: The Harmony of Caritas in Veritate, Dives in Misericordia, Laudato Si’, and Dignitatis Humanae


He argues that we will lose the struggle for religious freedom if we focus only on legal and legislative approaches. This is because (a) they do not address the rising tide of social hostilities involving religion, and (b) it misses the greatest argument for religious freedom, i.e., that it depends on mercy and love. 

He makes this argument from a point of view as a Catholic and as a global expert on the scientific study of religious freedom.

Main points:

Mercy and love are essential to religious freedom. Indeed, in the Second Vatican Council’s declaration on religious freedom, Dignitatis Humanae, mercy and love provide critical – but underemphasized – theological foundations for religious freedom. The declaration promulgated by Pope Paul VI on December 7, 1965, asserts that there can be no compulsion in matters of religion and it roots the rightness of this freedom in human dignity, with the fundamental basis of this assertion being the mercy and love of Christ. Specifically, Dignitatis Humanae (section 11, paragraph 2b) states:

For [Christ] bore witness to the truth, but He refused to impose the truth by force on those who spoke against it. Not by force of blows does His rule assert its claims. It is established by witnessing to the truth and by hearing the truth, and it extends its dominion by the love whereby Christ, lifted up on the cross, draws all men to Himself.

In short, religious freedom is “right” because the love of Christ shown in the mercy extended to all through the cross is to be embraced freely and not through coercion.

Caritas in veritateHe argues that if (a) social hostilities involving religion are now a greater challenge to religious freedom than government restrictions on religious freedom; and if (b) a majority of those outside of religious communities no longer see religion – and therefore religious freedom – as a basic force for good in society; then (c) we need a social approach to religious freedom that focuses on the main purpose of religious freedom – setting people of faith free to be incarnation of mercy and love, because, when people of faith are guided by and act on their conscience with “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, against such there is no law” (Galatians 5:23).

This means that religious freedom must be much more than just protecting the dual “negative rights” of immunity from coercion in conscience and immunity from being impeded from acting in conformity with conscience. Religious freedom must be advanced by people of faith, motivated by their faith, working wholeheartedly for the common good.

In other words, the best way of advancing religious freedom today is not through legislation and litigation – though they play a part – but through the authentic love of neighbor (and even enemy) in response to the mercy and love of God to us all.



Religious Freedom Is An Economic Asset in the Asia-Pacific Region

14 Feb, 2016

“Religious freedom is good for business & business is good for religious freedom.” Brian Grim, President of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, will make the case this week at the Asia Pacific Religious Freedom Forum (APRFF), an invitation-only gathering of parliamentarians, government representatives, civic and religious leaders from across the globe who are committed to advancing religious freedom in the Asia Pacific (see APRFF on Twitter and Facebook).

Grim will make the economic case for religious freedom on the heels of his other recent high profile briefings, including with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and the organizer of the Marrakesh Declaration on protections for minorities in Islamic lands, Shaykh Bin Bayyah.

In a recent article in Forbes, Grim along with Brian Walsh argue that even though the United States is still the world’s largest economy, today two Asian countries—neither historically nor majority Christian—have the second and third largest economies. The Pacific Rim as a whole, one of the most ethnically and religiously diverse regions on earth, is now also one of the most economically dynamic. The strength of the global economy has become religiously diverse, and this diversity will only increase in the next few decades.

According to a new study by the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, the globe’s growing religious diversity is likely to be one of the 21st century’s most important developments for businesses and policymakers around the world. Burgeoning religious populations with greater wealth will have greater political influence, and this has the potential to either undermine or enhance social stability and economic strength.

To navigate this new economic landscape well—and to ensure continued economic growth—it will be vital that national and business leaders emphasize the protection of minority groups’ human rights, especially the rights and liberties of all religious groups. Government protection for the dignity and freedoms of all religious groups is the only way to ensure the full economic participation and prosperity of these groups as they also interact in new ways, and do so in free and peaceful environments.

Grim will also argue that businesses are uniquely situated to solve problems caused by religious restrictions and hostilities because they are at the crossroads of culture, commerce and creativity. Indeed, they have a vested interest because religious freedom is good for business. Research shows that religious freedom not only benefits the bottom line, but also improves the lives of women, consolidates democracy, and increases peace and stability.

According to a study by researchers at Georgetown University and Brigham Young University, Religious freedom is one of only three factors significantly associated with global economic growth. The study looked at GDP growth for 173 countries in 2011 and controlled for two-dozen different financial, social, and regulatory influences.

  • The full report, “Is Religious Freedom Good for Business?: A Conceptual and Empirical Analysis,” is available on the website of the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion (IJRR). The authors of the study are Brian J. Grim, Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs, and Greg Clark and Robert Edward Snyder, Brigham Young University’s International Center for Law and Religion Studies.

As the world navigates away from years of poor economic performance, religious freedom may be an unrecognized asset to economic recovery and growth, according to this new study. The study examines and finds a positive relationship between religious freedom and ten of the twelve pillars of global competitiveness, as measured by the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index (see example in chart).

The study, however, goes beyond simple correlations by empirically testing and finding the tandem effects of government restrictions on religion and social hostilities involving religion (as measured by the Pew Research Center) to be detrimental to economic growth while controlling for 23 other theoretical, economic, political, social, and demographic factors.

The new study also furthers previous work in the field, including The Price of Freedom Denied (by Brian Grim & Roger Finke, Cambridge, 2011). Grim & Finke’s research showed that religious freedom is a key ingredient to peace and stability, as measured by the absence of violent religious persecution and conflict. This is particularly important for business because where stability exists, there is more opportunity to invest and conduct normal and predictable business operations, especially in emerging and new markets.

The new study observes that religious hostilities and restrictions create climates that can drive away local and foreign investment, undermine sustainable development, and disrupt huge sectors of economies. Such has occurred in the ongoing cycle of religious regulation and hostilities in Egypt, which has adversely affected the tourism industry, among other sectors. Perhaps most significant for future economic growth, the study notes that young entrepreneurs are pushed to take their talents elsewhere due to the instability associated with high and rising religious restrictions and hostilities.

Religious freedom when respected within a company can also directly benefit the bottom line. This includes both improved morale and lower costs. For instance, the clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch fought and lost a religious discrimination case in 2013 related to firing a Muslim stock girl for wearing a scarf in violation of the company’s dress code. The case resulted not only in substantial legal costs but also in negative national publicity.

Moreover, freedom of religion or belief is a human right protected in numerous treaties and agreements, including the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The study suggests that businesses may gain a competitive advantage by meeting the expectations of stakeholders who are increasingly demanding that companies play a positive role in addressing issues of social concern and fairness.

The study’s findings are timely given the rising tide of restrictions on religious freedom documented by Pew Research, showing that 76% of the world’s people currently live with high religious restrictions or hostilities. And the findings are especially relevant because the research shows that the largest markets for potential growth are in countries where religious freedom is highly restricted – casting a question mark over the long-term sustainability of growth in countries such as China.

Religious Diversity, Freedom & Economic Growth

One indicator of a degree of religious freedom is when a population is religiously diverse. While the two are not always related, religious diversity is a clear sign that people in society are themselves open to freedom of religion and belief. There is also an interesting connection between religious diversity and economic success.

An analysis of a recent Pew Research Center Religious Diversity report – a study based on methodology developed by Brian Grim – finds that the 12 countries identified in the study as having very high religious diversity each outpaced the world’s economic growth between 2008 and 2012.

Among the 12 countries (5%) with very high religiously diversity, all are located outside of Europe and North America. Six are in Asia-Pacific (Singapore, Taiwan, Vietnam, South Korea, China and Hong Kong); five are in sub-Saharan Africa (Togo, Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast, Benin and Mozambique); and one is in Latin America and the Caribbean (Suriname).

Between 2008 and 2012, the world’s average growth in gross domestic product (GDP) was 1.7%. By contrast, each of the 12 countries with very high religious diversity had higher average growth, and most by substantial margins.

Average GDP growth between 2008-2012 in China, the world’s 9th most religiously diverse country, averaged 9.3%. In seven of the twelve very diverse countries, average GDP growth was double or more that of the world average of 1.7%: Mozambique (7.0%), Vietnam (5.8%), Singapore (4.4%), Surinam (4.1%), Togo (4.0%), Benin (3,8%) and Taiwan (3.4%). In the remaining four very diverse countries, average GDP growth was also measurably higher than the world average: South Korea (2.9%), Ivory Coast (2.6%), Hong Kong (2.6%) and Guinea-Bissau (2.3%).

The underlying data for the religious diversity report are based on a December 2012 Pew Research Center study of the size and distribution of eight major world religions: Buddhists, Christians, folk religions, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, other religions considered as a group and the religiously unaffiliated. Taken together, these eight major groups comprise the world’s total population.


During the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, religion was completely outlawed and people were routinely beaten and killed for having superstitious or religious beliefs. While it is true that today China has very high government restrictions on religion relative to other countries in the world, current conditions are far less restrictive than they were in the 1960s and 1970s.

Today, China has the world’s largest Buddhist population, largest folk religionist population, largest Taoist population, 9th largest Christian population and 17th largest Muslim population – ranking between Yemen and Saudi Arabia (Pew Research Center 2012).

It is undeniable that had the Cultural Revolution’s draconian restrictions on religion and all segments of society continued, China’s economic progress would not have been possible.

But how does business promote religious freedom, interfaith understanding and peace?

Using Marketing Expertise to Bridge Borders: Companies can make positive contributions to peace in society by mobilizing advertising campaigns that bring people of various faiths and backgrounds together, as seen in a variety of Coca-Cola advertisements, including one bringing Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan together through live video feeds in their vending machines.

Incentivizing Innovation: Because cross-cultural dialogue and cooperation is an essential part of daily work for multinational companies, one company, the BMW Group, incentivizes other organizations to create innovative approaches to interfaith understanding through an award organized in collaboration with the UN Alliance of Civilizations. Organizations that have won this award include a tour company in the Middle East, which offers new paths to build bridges and bring cultures together through profitable interfaith tourism. Another recognized intercultural innovator uses job placements agencies to help contribute to the religious diversity of workforces, including helping Muslim youth from poorer areas of the Philippines get jobs in the Catholic-majority parts of the country.

Incubating and Catalyzing Social Entrepreneurship: Business can also provide common ground where religious differences give way to shared concern and enterprise. In Nigeria, for instance, the Yola Innovation Machine, a peace-building organization, works to support companies and new entrepreneurs in conflict-affected areas as a way to reduce extremism.

case-studiesSupporting Workforce Diversity: In Indonesia, businesses are at the forefront of efforts to promote interfaith understanding. For instance, EXPRESS Taxi, with a fleet of more than 7,000 taxis in Jakarta, promotes a faith-friendly workplace by setting up prayer rooms and facilitating Muslim and Christian observances as well as celebrations of Chinese New Year. In addition, businesses in Indonesia have worked to fix large, seemingly intractable social problems such as helping 4,541 poor couples receive the proper marriage licenses in large-scale interfaith weddings.

For more case studies, click here.

Asia Pacific Religious Freedom Forum (APRFF)*

The Asia Pacific Religious Freedom Forum is an invitation only gathering of religious freedom advocates committed to promoting religious freedom in their respective countries and abroad, from Feb. 18-21 in Taoyuan, Taiwan.

The Asia Pacific Religious Freedom Forum will bring together leaders of non-governmental organizations, religious leaders, and parliamentarians and other government representatives to address the deteriorating state of religious freedom and related human rights in the Asia Pacific region and the needed collaborative response from the international community.

Discussions will focus on specific themes related to advancing religious freedom in the Asia Pacific region, including coordinating advocacy efforts and diplomatic engagement, addressing related immigration and refugee issues and evaluating the socio-economic impact of religious freedom.

The Asia Pacific Religious Freedom Forum will feature speakers such as Matteo Mecacci, the President of International Campaign for Tibet; Brian Grim, President of Religious Freedom and Business Foundation; Libby Liu, President of Radio Free Asia; Congressman Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Chair of House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Human Rights; Ken Starr, President of Baylor University; Bastiaan Belder, Member of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs; and Bishop Efraim Tendero, Secretary General of the World Evangelical Alliance; among others.

The Asia Pacific Religious Freedom Forum aims to provide opportunities for collaboration on advancing religious freedom and related human rights between regional leaders from the Asia Pacific, United States, Europe, and throughout the world.



* China Aid and the Democratic Pacific Union DPU will co-host the Asia Pacific Religious Freedom Forum (APRFF). Sponsors and partners include Freedom House, Heritage Foundation, Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice, Taiwan Interfaith Foundation, Stefanus Alliance International, International Campaign for Tibet, Presbyterian Church in Taiwan, and Tzu Chi Foundation, Chinese Regional Bishops’ Conference, and the International Religious Freedom Roundtable, among others.


China Aid is a Christian international human rights organization with a mission to expose religious freedom and human rights abuse, encourage those abused and equip community and religious leaders in China. China Aid was founded in 2002 by Bob Fu.
The Democratic Pacific Union (DPU) is an international NGO aimed to promote “democracy, peace, and prosperity” in the Asian Pacific region and the world. The DPU was founded in 2005 by former Taiwanese Vice President Annette Lu.

APRFF Host City

Taoyuan is a special municipality in northwestern Taiwan and the fourth largest metropolitan area in Taiwan. Taoyuan hosts a large number of industrial parks and technology companies, and is also home to the Taipei Taoyuan International Airport, which serves the capital, Taipei and northern Taiwan. Taoyuan means “peach garden” as the area is widely known for its peach blossom trees.