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Monthly Archives: August 2017

Corporate Pledge on Freedom of Religion or Belief

27 Aug, 2017

by Amy Andrus and Athelia Graham, 2017 ICLRS Student Fellows


Brian J. Grim, founder and president of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, conducted a workshop at the 2017 Religious Freedom Annual Review entitled “Using Business to Advance Religious Freedom.”

Grim discussed the Corporate Pledge on Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB), a new instrument medium-to-large companies can sign that publicly demonstrates a commitment to practice no preference or discrimination based on employees’ religion. Grim asserted that the Pledge sends a clear message to current and prospective employees of a given business that “you can work here without changing who you are.” According to Grim, FoRB can become “one component of a company’s overall strategy to value its employees and increase their loyalty,” which benefits employees, employers, customers, and shareholders alike.

Grim’s Religious Freedom & Business Foundation is also developing a corporate diversity index, based on a 0–100 scale, that will rate workplaces worldwide on their religious freedom policies and practices. Companies that reasonably accommodate employees’ religious beliefs will receive favorable scores in addition to other benefits, such as boosting employee morale, increasing employee retention, reducing religious-based litigation, and avoiding harm to reputation. Grim stated that statistics indicate promoting religious freedom in the workplace and elsewhere is associated with more general social values as well, such as gender equality, sustainable economic development, reduced corruption, better education, and healthier human and social development.

According to Grim, religion will become a more contested space in our society, given statistics that decreasing numbers of Americans affiliate with a particular religion, but those who affiliate with a religion do so more strongly. He shared a prediction that “the next ‘big thing’ companies will have to navigate is religion.” Therefore, Grim argued, the Pledge is timely and will serve as a preventive measure to keep religious freedom and expression issues from becoming problematic in the workplace.

The four commitments of the pledge are 1) promoting sustainable and innovative business through protecting freedom of religion or belief, 2) promoting non-discrimination and non-harassment on the basis of religion or belief, 3) promoting religious accommodations and inclusion of religious beliefs, and 4) protecting and promoting freedom of religion or belief in our communities.

The pledge as well as additional information and resources for employers and employees to implement the pledge can be found below:


Video Recording | PowerPoint Presentation | Corporate Pledge

EU Parliament – 6 Sept. – Religion, Business & Human Rights

23 Aug, 2017
© European Union 2017

On Wednesday 6 September 2017, the European Platform against Religious Intolerance and Discrimination (EPRID) and Quê Me: Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR), in collaboration with the office of Ramon Tremosa i Balcells MEP, organised a Conference on “Religion, Business and Human Rights” at the European Parliament.

Speakers included Dr Brian Grim, President of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation (USA); Dr Ján Figel’, Special Envoy on the Promotion and Protection of Freedom of Religion or Belief outside the EU; Amarjit Singh, Partner at Ernst & Young LLP (UK); Michael Wakelin, Faculty of Divinity, University of Cambridge, and Merete Bilde of the European External Action Service.

The Conference was chaired by MEP Ramon Tremosa i Balcells, moderated by Penelope Faulkner, member of EPRID’s Board of Coordinators and Vice-President of VCHR, and attended by wide diversity of MEPs and staff, diplomats, officials from EU institutions, religious leaders and human rights defenders from the EU and Asia.

Below is a snapshot photo-report of the Conference. We will follow up soon with a more detailed account including conclusions and recommendations.

© European Union 2017

© European Union 2017

Ramon Tremosa i Balcells MEP, ALDE Coordinator for the EP Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON) - © European Union 2017

Ramon Tremosa i Balcells MEP, ALDE Coordinator for the EP Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON) – © European Union 2017

“Freedom of Religion or Belief is close to the core of every human being, so that some have argued that religion should be a private matter. So what has the business world to do with this human right? More than you might think!

 

Every day, businesses around the world bring together people from different backgrounds and religions to accomplish a shared purpose – producing a product or service for others. At the same time, societies are becoming more religiously diverse. The Sustainable Development Goals 2030 include several references to diversity and inclusion, and it is widely accepted that diversity will increasingly impact employees and markets. Facilitating this diversity is one component of a company’s overall strategy to value their employees and increase their loyalty for the benefit of customers and shareholders.”

 

Dr Brian Grim, founder and president of the US-based Religious Freedom & Business Foundation - © European Union 2017

Dr Brian Grim, founder and president of the US-based Religious Freedom & Business Foundation – © European Union 2017

Dr. Ján Figel’, Special Envoy for promotion of freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) outside the EU - © European Union 2017

Dr. Ján Figel’, Special Envoy for promotion of freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) outside the EU – © European Union 2017

Merete Bilde, policy advisor at the European External Action Service (EEAS) - © European Union 2017

Merete Bilde, policy advisor at the European External Action Service (EEAS) – © European Union 2017

Michael Wakelin, Executive Associate in Public Education for the Faculty of Divinity, University of Cambridge, former head of Religion at the BBC - © European Union 2017

Michael Wakelin, Executive Associate in Public Education for the Faculty of Divinity, University of Cambridge, former head of Religion at the BBC – © European Union 2017

Amarjit Singh, Partner at the company Ernst and Young, wealth and asset management, chair of the Ernst and Young Sikh Network - © VCHR 2017

Amarjit Singh, Partner at the company Ernst and Young, wealth and asset management, chair of the Ernst and Young Sikh Network – © VCHR 2017

Penelope Faulkner, member of EPRID’s Board of Coordinators and Vice-President of VCHR - © European Union 2017

Penelope Faulkner, member of EPRID’s Board of Coordinators and Vice-President of VCHR – © European Union 2017

Penelope Faulkner and Ramon Tremosa MEP - © European Union 2017

Penelope Faulkner and Ramon Tremosa MEP – © European Union 2017

VCHR President Vo Van Ai and Peter Van Dalen MEP, Co-Chair of the European Parliament Intergroup on Freedom of Religion or Belief and Religious Tolerance - © VCHR 2017

VCHR President Vo Van Ai and Peter Van Dalen MEP, Co-Chair of the European Parliament Intergroup on Freedom of Religion or Belief and Religious Tolerance – © VCHR 2017

 

Dr Susan Kerr (far right), member of EPRID’s Board of Coordinators, prepares the conclusions for the Conference - © VCHR 2017

Dr Susan Kerr (far right), member of EPRID’s Board of Coordinators, prepares the conclusions for the Conference – © VCHR 2017

Saumura Tioulong, Member of the Cambodian Parliament, and Sam Rainsy, leader in exile of the Cambodian opposition - © VCHR 2017

Saumura Tioulong, Member of the Cambodian Parliament, and Sam Rainsy, leader in exile of the Cambodian opposition – © VCHR 2017

Charlottesville Violence Highlights High Religious Hostilities in U.S. and World

14 Aug, 2017

The deadly anti-Semitic and racist demonstrations in the Virginia city of Charlottesville over the weekend are further evidence of high social hostilities involving religion in the United States.

Religious hostilities in the U.S. are high, according to the Pew Research Center’s past two annual reports (see line chart). The events in Charlottesville follow on from last weekend’s bombing of a Minnesota mosque.

Research show that religion-related hostilities negatively impact the economy. One sign of this is that the chief executive of Merck, one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, resigned on Monday from President Trump’s American Manufacturing Council. “America’s leaders must honor our fundamental values by clearly rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry and group supremacy,” said Merck & Co., Inc., CEO Kenneth Frazier.

The religious hostilities in the U.S. are part of a long-term global trend of increasing religious restrictions and hostilities. Indeed, a new analysis of the same Pew data show that the number of people living in countries with high religious restrictions and hostilities has reached nearly six billion people, or 78.5% of the world’s total population in 2017. This represents an increase of 1.1 billion since the first year of the study (see bar chart).* 

To see all the latest data, check out the Powerpoint below.


* Pew data are for 2007 – 2015. Population figures are from 2009 and 2017, the year the reports were released.

Walls and Religious Freedom in 5 Points

7 Aug, 2017

Good fences make good neighbors, so goes a popular saying. To what extent does this backyard wisdom apply to religious freedom today?

There are those who argue that walls are necessary to kept threats out. Others argue that the best way to overcome differences is to build bridges to those who are different and invite them in.

On August 25, 2017, Brian Grim, president of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, will address this question in the following 5 points during The Rimini Meeting, Europe’s largest regular summer gathering of people.*


1) Walls and Religious Freedom: Government and Social

There are two main ways religious freedom is inhibited today. The first is by government laws, actions and policies. The second is by prejudices, discrimination and violence by individuals and groups in society. See the latest data.

2) Walls that Fell: Iron and Bamboo

The Berlin Wall and the Bamboo Curtain are two walls that have fallen in living memory. In the case of the Berlin Wall, barriers are gone. In the case of China’s Bamboo Curtain, new walls have emerged such as its so-called Great Fire Wall, the nationwide internet censoring program. Despite the high level of government controls in China, religion has grown in the country. How is this possible? Read the story.

3) A Wall that Endures: The DMZ

The Korean War did not end, it came to a stalemate. The Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separates a divided Korea. South Korea is one of the world’s most religiously diverse and free countries. Religious Freedom does not exist in the North. Is there any hope for religious freedom in the North? Read an update from the DMZ.

4) Walls for Security

From Israel to the U.S. southern border, governments and societies erect walls they argue are necessary for security. What impact do these walls have on religious freedom? Research, however, clearly shows that religious freedom leads to less conflict and more peace.

5) Walls of the Human Heart

There are many parables showing how the human heart can be the biggest wall against accepting others – a fundamental characteristic of religious freedom. What such parables as the Good Samaritan and the Woman at the Well have to say about religious freedom today? Read Grim’s comments at the Vatican on the role of love in religious freedom.


*The Rimini Meeting – or to give it its official title ‘the Meeting for the Friendship Amongst Peoples’, is a huge social/political/economic/cultural conference run by the Catholic organisation Communion and Liberation.

The Rimini Meeting

Held annually since 1980, the Rimini Meeting attracts over 800,000 people over a period of a week in August to attend talks on a wide range of subjects; from the particularly religious focussed talks through to discussions on Europe, the Economy, social networks etc. It’s no exaggeration to say that whatever your interests are, you’ll probably find a talk at the Meeting which addresses it.

The Meeting always has a stellar cast of panelists – both Italian and International – with government ministers, presidents, prime-ministers all rubbing shoulders with journalists, film-makers, and academics. The event is also organised with an international audience in mind, with simultaneous translation available for most of the large panel events.

Apart from a few people who work full-time for its planning, the festival is entirely staged, managed and dismantled by about 4000 volunteers (mostly university students) coming from all over Italy and other countries of the world.

The meeting has had about 800,000 attendees per year in the last editions. Several prominent people from science, culture, society and politics give lectures at the meeting, including Nobel prize recipients, religious authorities (the Pope participated in 1982), politicians and ministers (the Italian prime minister participated a few times), international authorities (Tony Blair and others), writers, musicians (Riccardo Muti participated).

After the meeting in Rimini, other similar events have been organized: among these, the New York Encounter, an event held in New York in January every year and the Cairo Meeting, held in Cairo (Egypt).

Brian Grim to Address Largest Ever World Congress for Religious Liberty

7 Aug, 2017

Brian Grim will address the largest-ever World Congress for Religious Freedom for August 22, 2017 in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

Join hundreds of academics, religious freedom advocates, public officials, attorneys, and religious leaders from around the globe for the 8th World Religious Liberty Congress.

Hear internationally renowned speakers and experts, and choose from a broad range of breakout groups available in English, Spanish, Portuguese and French. (Translation in these languages will also be provided for plenary sessions.)

Engage with an issue that has become increasingly urgent within today’s geopolitical landscape: Religious Freedom and the Hope for Peaceful Co-existence.

Make valuable contacts within the international religious freedom community.