Working for workplace religious diversity, equity & inclusion


Monthly Archives: October 2016


31 Oct, 2016

manchester_interfaith_empowermentby Lisa Burns (originally published in Jesuits in Britain)

Launching Leaders, an interfaith project that links religion and business, has become the latest exciting new initiative to make its home at Manchester Universities’ Catholic Chaplaincy.

The Launching Leaders Group – a 12-week programme which pairs participants up with mentors – had its official launch at the Chaplaincy at the beginning of this month. With the help of online modules, talks, workshops and strategic planning, the participants on the course (many of them university students) are encouraged to develop themselves personally and professionally, whilst putting God at the centre of their decision-making process.

The course sees participants from a range of religious and academic backgrounds meeting very Tuesday for workshops facilitated by Chaplaincy Communications Officer Lisa Burns and Catholic languages student Michael Tomlin. During each session, mentors and participants discuss long and short term life plans and goals in workshop settings. Participants are paired up with mentors from different faith traditions – Muslim, Jewish, Catholic, and from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons).

While the Launching Leaders programme has been tried and tested internationally, it is now being piloted in its interfaith form at Manchester, at the invitation of Lead Chaplain Fr Tim Byron SJ.

A buzz of excitement

my-foundation-interfaith-edition-e1475746921287-295x300Launching Leaders is part of the Empowerment Plus programme, a fruit of years of research undertaken by Professor Brian J. Grim. Professor Grim, the founder and president of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, has looked extensively at the link between religious freedom and economic growth. His findings have shown that there is a positive correlation between the two, and that countries and regions where religious freedom is stifled have experienced economic decline.  View his fascinating TEDx talk

The much-anticipated global pilot of the interfaith Launching Leaders sessions at the Chaplaincy instigated a buzz of excitement, as the significance of its potential became tangible.

After the first session had ended, Professor Grim shared his thoughts: “The launch of Empowerment Plus at Manchester Universities’ Catholic Chaplaincy reflected one of the true great contributions of Ignatian spirituality – we saw God working through people He created, as diverse as Catholics, Mormons and Muslims, all sharing the goal of seeing Him more clearly in the day-to-day.”

He went on: “I couldn’t have been more pleased with the launch – it was amazing to see young adults from multiple faiths come together to share so naturally about life, jobs, faith. Their enthusiasm indeed reflects hope from the Lord.”

Hinna Parvez, a member of the Chaplaincy staff team, and coordinator of the Launching Leaders programme in Manchester also runs the Chaplaincy’s weekly night shelters.  Inspired by the Empowerment Plus vision, she has devised a timely business proposal to convert disused presbyteries and church buildings into Empowerment Plus Communities.

As the Launching Leaders weekly sessions continue, it becomes ever more evident that it is worth keeping an eye on what God has in store for the Empowerment Plus team in Manchester!

Nicholson and Makhzoumi Honored at Historic Westminster Hall

31 Oct, 2016

westminster-hall-awardsLast week in historic Westminster Hall, UK Parliament, we presented medals to two Business & Interfaith Peace award-winners who couldn’t make it to the Rio ceremony: Baroness Emma Nicholson (pictured on right) and Dr. Fouad Makhzoumi (pictured on left) with RFBF President Brian Grim.

The Global Business & Interfaith Peace Awards recognize business leaders – current or past CEOs – who have demonstrated leadership in championing interfaith understanding, religious freedom and peace. The Awards are a partnership initiative of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation (RFBF), and the United Nations Global Compact Business for Peace (B4P) platform, with collaboration from the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations.

The inaugural Awards were held in Rio de Janeiro on Tuesday, Sept. 6, a day before the Opening Ceremony of the 2016 Paralympic Games. The next awards will be given in Seoul, Korea, ahead of the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Paralympics. The 2016 winners come from a variety of religious backgrounds and manage companies and enterprises in the U.S., Indonesia, Mozambique, Uganda, Brazil, Britain, Lebanon and Iraq. Today we are here to honor two of the seven 2016 medalists who were unable to join us in Rio: Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne, and Dr. Fouad Mahzoumi.

The jury for this prestigious Award was comprised of a small group of high-level experts, including from the United Nations (H.E. Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, UN High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations); the religious freedom community (Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett, President of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights & Justice, and a former head of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom); and the business & peace community (Per L. Saxegaard, Business CEO, anRFBF_BIPAwards_Web_Bannerd Founder and Executive Chairman of the Business for Peace Foundation, Oslo, Norway).

H.E. Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, High Representative United Nations Alliance of Civilizations and one of the judges of the event, noted at the Awards that “Today, we are launching the First Edition of the Global Business and Interfaith Peace Awards, with the conviction that the business sector, the religious community and the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations are important actors in ‘promoting peaceful and inclusive societies’. The businessmen and women who will accept this award today are those who have demonstrated strong leadership and have integrated the Sustainable Development Goals and interfaith understanding and peace into their business. … This award recognizes those who have taken an initiative to use their business as a platform for promoting positive change and tolerance in our society.”

Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne

Driven by religious intolerance and radical fundamentalism, ISIS (Daesh) has decimated the economies of both the Syrian and Iraqi nations, displaced millions from their homes, and acted as the hateful catalyst behind the genocide of Yazidis and other religious minorities. Violence from ISIS has left many survivors in need of medical care, shelter, and other common necessities. Baroness Nicholson, head of the Iraq Britain Business Council and the AMAR Foundation, oversees trade, investment, training and the transfer of technology to Iraq. With the support of local governments, Baroness Nicholson has led the cause of helping displaced Iraqi women, regardless of faith or ethnicity, to cope with the horrendous atrocities of war, providing mental and physical health treatment and offering resources for recreation, education, and vocational training. For this work, which spans decades, the United Nations and the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation are honored to award you this medal of the Inaugural Global Business & Interfaith Peace Awards.

Dr. Fouad Makhzoumi

During a 15-year civil war, many youth in Lebanon forewent their education as they became increasingly involved with religious fundamentalism, leading to unemployment and economic stagnation. Fouad Makhzoumi, CEO of Future Pipes Industries Group Limited, witnessed how his late son’s youthful energy and cross-cultural savvy triggered exponential growth as his son provided a positive vision for productive and socially responsible business. Makhzoumi and his foundation have helped empower thousands by harnessing this same youthful enthusiasm for entrepreneurship and religious freedom. His microcredit training for Lebanese people of all faiths has helped over 10,000 individuals set up sustainable businesses, and hundreds of thousands more are receiving vocational training. For this work, which also spans decades, the United Nations and the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation are honored to award you this medal of the Inaugural Global Business & Interfaith Peace Awards.


On Capitol Hill, Brian Grim speaks on Religion’s economic role

31 Oct, 2016

cap-hill-nov-2-2016On November 2, Religious Freedom & Business Foundation President Brian Grim will speak on “Religion’s Socio-Economic Values to the U.S.” (see below). His comments are part of a Symposium held on Capitol Hill honoring the life and service of retiring U.S. Senator Dan Coats of Indiana.

Other speakers highlighting faith’s positive impact at the “Faith, Giving, and Community Transformation” Symposium include U.S. Senator Dan Coats (Indiana), David Hoppe (Chief of Staff for US Speaker Paul Ryan), Michael Gerson (Washington Post columnist), Hunter Smith (Super Bowl champion), and those pictured above as well as others.

The first panel will discuss “Christian Faith in the Public Square: Past, Present, and Future,” and will include Dan Coats, Michael Gerson, Byron Johnson (Distinguished Professor of the Social Sciences, Baylor University) and Brian Grim (President, Religious Freedom & Business Foundation). The second panel looks at “Christian Giving in America: Past, Present, and Future,” and includes Todd Harper (Founder, Generous Giving), and Forrest Reinhardt (President NCF-Portland, National Christian Foundation), concluding with “Faith-Based Entrepreneurship” with Dale Dawson (Founder, Chairman and CEO, Bridge 2 Rwanda), and Steve Cosler (Operating Partner, Water Street Healthcare Partners). The event is sponsored by Mission Increase Foundation.

Religion’s Socio-Economic Value to the U.S.

Religion annually contributes nearly $1.2 trillion of socio-economic value to the U.S. economy, according to a September 2016 study by Brian Grim and Melissa Grim in the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion.

  • — That is equivalent to being the world’s 15th largest national economy, putting it ahead of about 180 other countries.
  • — It’s more than the annual revenues of the world’s top 10 tech companies, including Apple, Amazon and Google.
  • — And it’s also more than 50% larger than that of the annual global revenues of America’s 6 largest oil and gas companies.

So – you might say – that represents a lot of spiritually inspired fuel being pumped into the U.S. economy.

Religion does play a unique role in the socio-economic behaviors of Americans. For example, adults who are highly religious are significantly more likely than those who are less religious to report they did volunteer work and made donations to the poor in the past week, according to the Pew Research Center.

As I’ll explain, the contributions of religion to American society fall into three general categories:

  • — $418 billion from religious congregations
  • — $303 billion from other religious institutions
  • — $437 billion from faith-based, faith-related or faith-inspired businesses

All these figures come from a careful analysis of survey and financial data from a wide range of national sources detailed in the research article in the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion, including:

  • — National Congregations Study
  • — Religious Congregations and Membership Study
  • — Private School Universe Survey
  • — Institution of Education Sciences
  • — Becker’s Hospital Review
  • — Revenue reports of faith-based health organizations, charities & businesses
  • — Faith-related business data by Oxford University’s Said Business School Professor Theodore Roosevelt Malloch
  • — Congregational “halo effect” analysis by University of Pennsylvania Professor Ram Cnaan
  • — World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the Role of Faith

Congregations contribute $418 billion to the American economy each year.

  • — This comes from more than 344,000 congregations representing hundreds of different denominations and religions.
  • — By way of context, this number represents 26 congregations for every one Starbucks in the United States. So you’d have to pass 26 places of worship in order to find your first Starbucks brew.
  • — Unlike a coffee that has one basic service, these congregations provide 1.5 million different types of social and community service programs.

Congregations have four main avenues of socio-economic impact:

  • — The local spending and operations of congregations themselves
  • — Primary and secondary schools attached to local congregations
  • — The Magnet effect of attracting additional activity to the local community
  • — And the value of the impact all these activities have on individuals

Each year congregations spend $84 billion on their operations ranging from paying hundreds of thousands of personnel, to paying for goods and service as diverse as flowers, sounds systems, maintenance, and utilities. Almost all being spent right in the local community.

Schools attached to congregations employ 420,000 full time teachers and train 4.5 million students each year. By comparison this is the same number as the total population of Ireland or New Zealand.

Congregations are like magnets attracting economic activity ranging from weddings, as I’ve already mentioned and can give personal detail on, to lectures, congresses, and even tourism. For instance, 120,000 congregations report that people visit them to view their art and architecture. Here are just a few examples….

Finally, and most importantly, it’s what congregations do in their communities that makes the biggest socio-economic contribution. These programs impact individuals and families in a variety of important ways.

For example:

  • — Congregations provide 130,000 alcohol recovery programs such as The Saddleback Church “Celebrate Recovery” program that has helped over 27,000 individuals over the past 25 years.
  • — Congregations provide 120,000 programs to help the unemployed. For example, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has employment service centers in each of their stakes across the country (and across the world), for that matter.

Some of this work runs counter to stereotypes some may have about religious groups. For instance,

  • — Nearly 26,000 congregations are engaged in some form of active ministry to help people living with HIV-AIDS. That makes one HIV-AIDS ministry for every 46 people who are HIV positive. Just this past weekend on 9/11, under the sponsorship of Walgreen’s and the “First Ladies” (pastors’ wives) of Chicago, nearly 50 Chicago churches hosted free screening for HIV and other diseases.
  • — In fact, the data show that congregations overwhelmingly include a society-building, outward community focus, with over 320,000 congregations helping to recruit volunteers for programs outside their walls, to non-religious groups, ranging from Big Brothers and Big Sisters to the United Way and the American Red Cross.

I’d like to briefly tell you the story of how a congregational school impacts individuals who then impact the community for good. St. Benedict’s Prep readies 530 mostly poor, mostly minority boys for college and beyond. In an area where public schools are working hard just to keep young men from ending up in gangs, in jail or dead, St. Benedict’s sends 95% of its graduates to college, including a sizable number to Ivy League schools.

And graduates, such as Uriel Burwell, return to make an impact. Upon graduating from Drew University, Uriel returned to his childhood neighborhood to build 50 new affordable houses, rehabilitate more than 30 homes and attracted more than $3 million funding to build additional affordable homes and apartments in the area.

Religious Institutions: If we extend our view beyond what happens at local congregations and schools, we can find tens of thousands of other religiously-affiliated charities, health care facilities, and institutions of higher learning also doing these sorts of good works every day. These add another $303 billion of socio-economic impact to the US economy each year.

These includes:

  • — Charities such as the Knights of Columbus whose 1.5 million members respond to disasters and other human needs
  • — Health care services such as provided by the Adventist Health Systems which employ 78,000 people in 46 hospitals
  • — Institutions of higher education such as Brandeis University which is one of thousands of religiously-based colleges throughout the country
  • — I could go on for hours describing such as institutions as Islamic Relief USA, which responded to the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, by hiring 20 local staff and distributing 135,000 gallons of water during the height of the water crisis.
  • — Rather than continuing to give examples, I will now move to the third sector, business

Businesses: Religion related business add another $438 billion to the US economy each year. These include faith-based businesses, ranging from the Halal and Kosher food industries to religious media such as EWTN and the Christian Broadcast Network.

The largest group within this sector are not religious companies, per se, but are faith-inspired or religion-friendly companies. Tyson’s Foods, for example, employs a large force of chaplains for their multi-religious workforce.

Across the country there are associations of CEOs who seek to put the moral and ethical teachings of their faith to practice in their business. One such association is C12 with over 2,500 members, some of whom have business worth billions of dollars.

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

Don Larson from Religious Freedom & Business on Vimeo.

Honoring CEOs in Brussels, London & Dubai

16 Oct, 2016

2016-09-27-nexus-business-religious-freedom-poster-a4-engOn Oct. 18, RFBF Brian Grim is speaking at the EU Parliament in Brussels, highlighting the amazing impact of the Global Business & Interfaith Peace Awards finalists.

In London, he’ll be highlighting these same champions at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and then in Parliament’s Westminster Hall. There, we’ll present medals to two award-winners who couldn’t make it to the Rio ceremony: Baroness Emma Nicholson (UK & Iraq) and Dr. Fouad Makhzoumi (Lebanon & UAE).

From London, he’ll head to Dubai to be with Gold Medalist, Y.W. Junardy (Indonesia) at the annual meeting of the United Nations Global Compact’s Business for Peace initiative, our partner for the awards.

Helping Grim with the presentations at Westminster Hall are Lisa Burns and Hinna Parves, who are helping lead our Manchester Empowerment+ interfaith social cohesion and enterprise initiative. Also helping is Melissa Grim, coauthor of the recent study on the economic contribution of faith to American society and project manager for the Awards.