Working for workplace religious diversity, equity & inclusion


Monthly Archives: April 2017

Religious Freedom in Indonesia: Address by Amb. Robert Blake

28 Apr, 2017

Religious Freedom in Indonesia

By Ambassador Robert Blake,*  April 27, 2017

Roundtable discussion hosted by the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, Indonesia’s Leimena Institute, and the Newseum Institute’s Religious Freedom Center.

It is a pleasure to participate in this discussion of Religious Freedom in Indonesia.  Let me extend my thanks to the organizers and the Newseum.

This session is timely because religion played an important, perhaps decisive role in the Jakarta gubernatorial elections, as Islamic hardliners rallied support against the sitting Governor Ahok who is a double minority so many wonder whether this portends a longer term trend that will erode Indonesia long tradition of tolerance.

Indonesia’s founding fathers were firm that Indonesia must define itself as a pluralist, multi-religious state when they declared independence in 1945.

— The constitution guarantees freedom of religion and the right to worship according to one’s own beliefs.

— Indonesia recognizes six religious groups: Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Confucianism.

— But members of unofficial groups have the right to establish a place of worship, register marriages and births, and obtain national identity cards.

The State Department and respected independent groups such as the Wahid Institute in Indonesia have documented a decline in tolerance in recent years.

This reflects several factors in my view:

— An increase in discrimination and attacks against unrecognized sects such as Shia and Ahmadis;

— A failure of the State enforcement institutions such as the police to take quick action to stop such attacks and a tendency for the police to view their role as one of preventing violence rather than protecting legal and constitutional rights;

— A tendency on the part of many politicians and even influential groups such as Mohammedia and Nahdatul Ulama to not condemn such actions and the activities of hardline groups such as the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) for fear of being portrayed as anti-Islamic; and

— The growing use, or misuse of social media.

Overall, however, I remain convinced that the vast majority of Indonesians are tolerant and believe in religious freedom.  But it is very important that politicians of all stripes unite now to reaffirm the importance of tolerance and religious freedom as President Jokowi did a few days ago.

This matters not just for Indonesia but for the wider Islamic world because Indonesia must sustain its role as an example of tolerance at a time when much of the rest of the Muslim world faces great challenges to democracy and religious freedom.

* Ambassador Robert Blake served for 31 years in the State Department in a wide range of leadership positions. In 2009, he was nominated by President Obama to be Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, serving from 2009-2013, for which he was awarded the State Department’s Distinguished Service Award. From 2006-2009, he served concurrently as U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives. Prior to that, he served as Deputy Chief of Mission in India from 2003-2006, where he was named the worldwide DCM of the Year by the State Department. Most recently, from 2013-2016, he was the U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia, where he focused on building stronger business and educational ties between the U.S. and Indonesia, while also developing cooperation to help Indonesia reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Ambassador Blake heads McLarty Associates India & South Asia practice, supporting their Southeast Asia and Central Asia practices.

Photos: Maria Bryk, Newseum

Engaging Global Leaders

18 Apr, 2017
Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Beginning this week (at the National Press Club in Washington DC) and over the coming months (from Utah to NYC to Oxford University to Cascais to Italy to Germany to South Korea), I’ll be speaking on the socio-economic benefits of religious liberty at global and national events involving top business, government and religious leaders.

You can find the details by following the links below. Also, at the end you can see my report from Syrian refugee camps in Lebanon and our global film competition.

I hope our paths may cross along the way!

Brian Grim, RFBF President


Engaging Business Leaders on Trust

Brian Grim will chair a plenary on developing trust at one of world’s foremost gatherings of business leaders, the Hoarsis Global Meeting, May 28-29, in Cascais, Portugal. Joining Grim are Cardinal Peter Turkson, Canon Sarah Snyder, former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and Elder Neil L. Andersen (pictured, clockwise from top left).

Washington DC

Grim will discuss the cost of freedom denied on April 20 at “Under Caesar’s Sword,” a one-day symposium on contemporary Christian responses to persecution. National Press Club, Washington DC.

Q – Nashville

Brian Grim & Byron Johnson show how faith-based organizations renew civil society at a time when 46% of Americans believe religion is part of society’s problem. See them on Apr. 26 in Nashville at the Q Conference, Nashville, an annual meeting of young leaders intent on envisioning Christianity’s future role in society.

Positive Peace, Oxford

What role does business play in promoting interfaith understanding, religious freedom and peace? Join Grim at Oxford University on May 6th for the annual OxPeace conference to find out.

World Trade Center

On May 18, Brian Grim will speak to the board of the Utah World Trade Center encouraging them to support the Corporate Pledge on Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB). The pledge was soft-launched last year at the Newseum’s Religious Freedom Center in Wash. DC.

South Korea

Grim will participate at the end of June in a UNESCO working group in Seoul, South Korea, to address the rise of nationalism and its impact on peace, cohesion and global citizenship — vital topics given the situation in North Korea today.

G20 Interfaith Summit

Grim will speak in Germany at the Interfaith G20 Summit (June 15-17), which brings together experts on economy, law and politics, as well as global leaders to highlight the key role that religion and religious freedom plays in promoting Sustainable Development.

Emerging Leaders

Grim will address 50 emerging global leaders on the economic benefits of freedom of religion and belief at Cumberland Lodge, Windsor, July 23, sponsored by the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office. One aim is to develop a network of high-potential students engaged on the topic.

Syrian Refugee Camps

The scale and depth of the tragedy is hard to comprehend: millions facing little or no chance of employment, education or mobility. Amidst this great need, there are reasons for hope.

Global Film Competition Now Open

Religious Freedom Film Competition Promo from RF Film Competition on Vimeo.

G20 Interfaith Summit – Germany

17 Apr, 2017

Brian Grim will speak in Germany at the Interfaith G20 Summit (June 15-17), which brings together experts on economy, law and politics, as well as global leaders to highlight the key role that religion and religious freedom plays in promoting Sustainable Development. Grim has previously participated in Interfaith G20 Summits in Brisbane and Istanbul.

The impact of Interfaith Summits has been acknowledged by G8 leaders in the past and G20 leaders of today. The Interfaith Summit will bring together experts on economy, law and politics, as well as global leaders from various religious, professional and humanitarian backgrounds to highlight the key role that religion plays in promoting aspects of achievement of the United Nation’s post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals that Germany has chosen to highlight during this year’s G20 Summit. Special attention will be paid to issues surrounding the refugee crisis, addressing issues of religious extremism, and addressing other issues such as the environment, where religious voices have much to contribute.


The objective of the G20 Interfaith Summit is to facilitate peace and harmony between people of all religious and philosophical traditions while exploring ways to work together to strengthen human development understood in the broadest sense. This is important because religion plays a major role in global events today, but its role is complex and can easily be misunderstood or even overlooked as a factor on the global stage. By focusing on a series of concrete issues that are much in the public eye, we hope to suggest a variety of ways that religion can contribute to enhanced responses to crucial social challenges.


The annual G20 Interfaith Summit brings together opinion leaders such as scholars, lawyers and political leaders with faith and interfaith leaders from around the world for three days of discussion and dialogue as a substantial contribution to the G20 Economic Forum. Such a gathering showcases the scholarly and societal contributions of faith traditions and philosophies from around the world. Furthermore, this conference creates opportunities for communication and relationship building and raises the profile of participating communities, groups and organizations. Summary videos and programs of previous events can be viewed here.

For more information, check out the concept paper for the 2017 by clicking here. Details continue to be added, so please check back often.

South Korea – UNESCO

17 Apr, 2017

“Nationalistic perspectives and their implications for global citizenship education”

28-29 June 2017 (Seoul, R.O.K.)

Brian Grim will participate at the end of June in a UNESCO working group in Seoul, South Korea, to address the rise of nationalism and its impact on peace, cohesion and global citizenship — vital topics given the situation in North Korea today.

Organized by UNESCO-Headquarters, the Korean National Commission for UNESCO (KNCU) & the Asia-Pacific Centre of Education for International Understanding (APCEIU)


There are strong indications that in various regions of the world populist nationalisms and economic protectionism are on the rise.

According to recent reports and studies, globalization in trade is in retreat. Sentiments of support towards nationalist parties and movements (extreme and not so extreme)  are being fueled by sharp concerns about unemployment rates and rising income inequalities, as well as negative attitudes towards globalization and immigrants[i].

These political and economic trends seem to be profoundly opposed to what UNESCO’s Global Citizenship Education has been promoting, namely an education that should aim to empower learners to assume active roles to face and resolve global challenges and to become proactive contributors to a more tolerant, inclusive, peaceful and secure world.

Paradoxically, in this context, we are witnessing an unprecedented global commitment to quality education and its pivotal role in lifting the disenfranchised out of poverty and accelerating the achievement of peace and sustainable development[ii].

In order to explore these contrasting trends and related issues, UNESCO is convening a consultation seminar with a small group of experts from around the world.

[i]; 19 November 2016 and; 13 Nov 2014; The New sick Man of Europe : the European union ; Pew Global Attitudes Project, PewResearch Center. May 13, 2013; 26 July 2014;;   9 March 2017

[ii] During the global post-2015 MDG consultation process in 2013-2014 a “good education” was voted as the top priority, before better health care and good governance in MY WORLD, a United Nations global survey aiming to capture priorities for the next set of global goals to end poverty. See: . This trend supported unprecedented process that led to the integration of Global Citizenship Education in the SDG Framework under Goal 4 (Target 4.7)

World Trade Center – Utah

17 Apr, 2017

On May 18, Brian Grim will invite the board of directors of the Utah World Trade Center to support the Corporate Pledge on Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB). The FoRB Pledge was soft-launched last year at the Newseum’s Religious Freedom Center in Wash. DC.

The FoRB Pledge — which supports religious diversity and freedom in the workplace — sends two clear messages to current and prospective employees: (1) You can work here without changing who you are; and (2) the company respects all employees and will not favor certain employees over others … and that’s good for the business of all.

The FoRB Pledge is one component of a company’s overall strategy to value its employees and increase their loyalty for the benefit of customers and shareholders. The FoRB Pledge is a company’s public commitment to take reasonable steps to ensure that working at the company does not put employees at odds with their deeply held religious convictions.

The mission of World Trade Center Utah (WTC Utah) is to help Utah companies think, act and succeed globally. WTC Utah accomplishes this mission through four key objectives:

  • – Motivate and educate Utah businesses to expand their global presence through training seminars, regional forums and newsletters focused on international business development, trade issues and export opportunities.
  • – Build capacity of Utah businesses for international trade through B2B consultations to identify expansion goals, assess current capabilities, determine overseas opportunities and connect companies with market experts and potential partners.
  • – Expand global network of Utah businesses with foreign trade officials through networking opportunities with ambassadors, consuls general and diplomats from all around the world.
  • – Support partners in strengthening Utah’s international business economy through trade missions, trade shows, foreign direct investment efforts and free trade advocacy.

World Trade Center Utah is a licensed and certified member of the World Trade Centers Association, a network of more than 300 World Trade Centers in 100 countries around the world focused on facilitating prosperity through trade and investment.

Relationship Between Democracy, Religion and Freedom

17 Apr, 2017

Saturday, June 3 9 AM –

“With the sword in one hand and the trowel in the other” – a conversation about rights and religious freedom.

In a world characterized by an increasingly secular culture, the Festival aims to show that the cultures and values born from religions may represent the strongest response against extremism and lack of existential sense. The Festival wants to offer an answer to the inability to deal with a real world where the presence of religious men is growing.

In Europe, this inability is generated by an increasing number of people that forms themselves without ever being connected or having deepened the religious culture. Interfaith dialogue does not only involves people who profess a particular faith. It closely affects many aspects of everyday life and, engages believers and non-believers. The practice of dialogue requires the value of freedom of religion. From this point of view we must reflect on the relationship between democracy and religion, from the crisis of two elements that have characterized modernity: the secular state and the perception of faith as exclusively private.

The dialogue does not exclude the dimension of the fight: there are identities, histories and values that must be preserved with “sword in hand” with the desire to return to build a new dimension in relations between believers and non-believers: a more human dimension, which needs to be built with the “trowel in hand.”


  • – Franco Frattini, President of SIOI (Italian Society for International Organization)
  • – Brian Grim, President of the Freedom of Religion and Business Foundation
  • – Card. Jean Louis Tauran, President of The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue


17 Apr, 2017

Join Brian Grim and Byron Johnson as they discuss the Halo Effect at the annual Q conference.

April 26, 2017, Nashville, TN.

Forty-six percent of Americans believe religion is part of the problem in our society. Yet faith is the motivation for many of the critical social services and programs that benefit the most vulnerable populations.

Congregations, faith-based businesses, and charities lift people up in times of need in ways that few other institutions or government programs can.

In this conversation, you will see the important role faith-based organizations play in renewing civil society.


From the ideas and current issues shaping society, to the truth that transforms the world, you will be informed and gain confidence that God is at work in his mission to renew all things. Education by thought leaders and stories from change-makers will inspire a hopeful way forward. Join us to be equipped for the difficult conversations and extraordinary opportunities that lay ahead.


At Q you will experience thirty curated 9 or 18 minute talks, featuring the state of American culture and ways Christians can navigate the complexity of our changing society. With dedicated space for constructive debate, expert interaction and lively experiences, Q will be an investment.


Byron Johnson is Distinguished Professor of the Social Sciences at Baylor University. He is the founding director of the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion (ISR) as well as director of the Program on Prosocial Behavior.

Brian J. Grim, Ph. D., is president of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation (RFBF) and a leading expert on international religious demography and the socio-economic impact of restrictions on religious freedom. Brian recently served as chair of the World Economic Forum’s global agenda council on the role of faith.

Emerging International Leaders Programme on Freedom of Religion or Belief

17 Apr, 2017

Brian Grim will address 50 emerging global leaders on the economic benefits of freedom of religion and belief on July 23, 2017. The event is held at Cumberland Lodge, Windsor, and sponsored by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.

The Emerging International Leaders Programme on Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) will equip future leaders and opinion formers with the skills and insight necessary to drive debate, influence policy and build a powerful global network.

It responds to the fact that around three-quarters of the world’s population lives in countries that restrict such freedoms or fail to protect them. It aims to empower scholars to become advocates of human rights in their universities and home countries.

The programme is open to postgraduate students who are scholars on the Commonwealth Scholarship Scheme and the Chevening Scholarship Scheme. Each year, 50 high-potential candidates will be selected and supported with  gaining an in-depth understanding of the importance of the freedom of religion or belief. Applications for 2017 have now closed.

Key themes

We will be addressing the following key questions:

  • – Why is freedom of religion or belief important?
  • – How does freedom of religion or belief intersect with other freedoms?
  • – What are the successes/failings of existing national and international policies on freedom of religion or belief?
  • – How can existing human rights frameworks be supplemented, supported and implemented?

The programme will involve:

  • – Residential Retreats at Cumberland Lodge, Windsor Great Park (see dates below)
  • – Multi-disciplinary discussion with academics, advocates, policy-makers, and activists
  • – Lectures, workshops, and peer-to-peer learning
  • – An exploration of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the role and position of religion in the public sphere, religious literacy, and inter-faith dialogue
  • – Analysis of practical responses to violations of FoRB worldwide.

Participants will look at Freedom of Religion or Belief in a contemporary, global context and have the opportunity to engage in a multi-disciplinary discussion with academics, advocates, policy makers, activists, and their peers.

Residential retreats

Cumberland Lodge’s residential retreats will encompass lectures, workshops, and peer-to-peer learning and will consider the significance of the Universal Declaration for Human Rights. They will also examine the role of religion in the public sphere, religious literacy and inter-faith dialogue, and practical responses to violations of Freedom of Religion or Belief, worldwide.

The Cost of Freedom Denied

17 Apr, 2017

Brian Grim will discuss the cost of freedom denied on April 20 at “Under Caesar’s Sword,” a one-day symposium on contemporary Christian responses to persecution. National Press Club, Washington DC.


“Under Caesar’s Sword” is a three-year, collaborative global research project that investigates how Christian communities respond when their religious freedom is severely violated. Research will be centered around three core questions:

  • How do Christian communities respond to repression?
  • Why do they choose the responses that they do?
  • What are the results of these responses?

The Templeton Religion Trust awarded a grant of $1.1 million to the University of Notre Dame and the Religious Freedom Project at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs at Georgetown University to carry out the research.

“Under Caesar’s Sword” is an effort to discover and draw attention to the ways in which Christian communities around the world respond to the severe violation of their religious freedom. These strategies vary widely, ranging from nonviolent protest movements of the kind that Pcaesarssword2ope John Paul II led in communist Poland, to the complex diplomacy of Christian churches in China, to simply fleeing from persecution en masse, as Christians have in Iraq. Further, the project aims to raise solidarity with persecuted Christians worldwide and to help them respond justly and effectively in ways that build up religious freedom for all.

The team of 14 scholars, representing the world’s leading scholars of Christianity in their respective regions, will travel around the world to study some 100 beleaguered Christian communities in over 30 countries including China, Indonesia, Nigeria, Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Pakistan, and India.

One of the project’s signature features is its extensive efforts to disseminate its findings. This is part and parcel of its efforts to raise awareness of and be in solidarity with persecuted Christians. The scholars’ cumulative findings about Christian responses to repression are publicized through a wide range of media:

  • A major international conference in Rome held in December 2015 on the fiftieth anniversary of the Second Vatican Council’s declaration on religious freedom, Dignitatis Humanae
  • An edited volume of essays in which the scholars present their findings in their full academic rigor
  • A report that presents the findings in an easily accessible and visually attractive way and will be translated into four languages and distributed around the world
  • A public symposium in Washington, DC, on April 20, 2017 (including launch of the report)
  • A web page that distributes the findings through an interactive format
  • A short documentary film
  • Educational resources for schools, churches, and other organizations

Brian Grim leads plenary at one of world’s foremost business leader gatherings

17 Apr, 2017

Leaders often promise much yet fail to deliver, sometimes because of global events beyond their control. The people often become disillusioned, without hope. How may we develop trust, faith and togetherness to enable progress that can absorb economic, political and spiritual surprises originating locally or globally?

Join Brian Grim, president of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, at a plenary presentation of the 2017 Horasis Global Meeting (28-29 May), Cascais, Portugal to see how several top leaders answer this question at an audience composed of some of the world’s leading thinkers and business leaders. This is the second time Grim has led a panel at the Horasis Global Meeting, the first being in Liverpool in 2016.

Manuel Caldeira Cabral, Minister of Economy, Portugal Horasis will convene the 2017 Horasis Global Meeting in Cascais, Portugal on 28-29 May. The annual Horasis Global Meeting is one of the world’s foremost gatherings of business leaders who interact with key government officials and eminent thought leaders. The Horasis community of more than 300 selected world leaders from 70 countries will gather for an unparalleled experience advancing solutions to the most critical challenges facing corporations and societies today.

Speakers (pictured above, clockwise from top left) on the “Developing Trust” panel with Brian Grim include:

• Cardinal Peter K.A. Turkson | Prefect, Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, and Past President, Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Vatican City

• Canon Sarah Snyder | Archbishop of Canterbury’s Adviser for Reconciliation, United Kingdom

• Hamid Karzai | Former President of Afghanistan, Afghanistan

• Elder Neil L. Andersen | Member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, USA

Participants will share insights and innovations on how to best navigate the future. Under the theme ‘Building Togetherness’, participants will share insights on the current state of the world which seems to become more fragile and fractious. Citizens around the world are less trusting of their governments, institutions and neighbours. We need to build a new togetherness, to raise our belief in our inventiveness and in our ability to overcome oppression. This meeting shall devise novel ideas to sustain and nurture our development in the future.

Cascais is conveniently located 20min from Lisbon Airport and – with its enchanting location right on the Atlantic – is one of Europe’s truly legendary resorts. The 2017 Horasis Global Meeting is already the third Horasis leadership event held in Cascais, after the 2015 Horasis China Meeting and the 2016 Horasis India Meeting. The 2017 Horasis Global Meeting is held in partnership with the City of Cascais, the Portuguese Government and the Estoril Conferences, a biannual series of events held in Cascais to discuss the challenges of globalization. The co-chairs are:

  • – Princess Basmah Bint Saud Al-Saud, Chairwoman, GURA – Global United Centre for Research and Analysis, Saudi Arabia
  • – Issam Alzahid, Chairman, Alzahid Group Holding, Saudi Arabia
  • – Barbara Barrett, Chairman, Aerospace Corporation, USA
  • – Vijay Eswaran, Chairman, QI Group, Malaysia
  • – CP Gurnani, Chief Executive Officer, Tech Mahindra, India
  • – Alan Hassenfeld, Chairman, Hasbro, USA
  • – Pansy Ho, Chairperson, Shun Tak Holdings, Hong Kong
  • – Werner Hoyer, President, European Investment Bank, Luxembourg
  • – Kevin G. Lynch, Vice Chairman, BMO Financial Group, Canada
  • – Strive Masiwia, Founder and Chairman, Econet Wireless, South Africa
  • – António Mexia, Chief Executive Officer, EDP, Portugal
  • – Kenneth S. Rogoff, Professor of Economics, Harvard University, USA
  • – Shirley Yeung, Founder & Managing Partner, Dragonrise Capital, China
  • –  William Y. Zhang, Chairman, EU-China Municipal Development Commission, China

About Horasis: Horasis – a global visions community committed to enact visions for a sustainable future – provides a unique platform for companies from emerging and developed markets to globalize their organisations. In addition to the Horasis Global Meeting, Horasis hosts summits with a focus on China, India, South East Asia, Russia and the Arab world. About the Estoril Conferences: The Estoril Conferences are a one-week series of events held in Cascais in May 2017. Held since 2009, the conferences are a meeting place of thinkers and other renowned personalities to discuss the most pressing issues related to globalization. The 2017 Horasis Global Meeting marks the inaugural event of the conference week.