Brian Grim, president of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, was honored by the Pontifical University in the Dominican Republic for his contributions to the promotion of religious freedom worldwide. The award was presented during the Caribbean’s first international Religious Freedom & Economy Symposium, which attracted significant national and regional media attention.
Margarita Cedeño, Vice President of the Dominican Republic, opened the symposium with delegates attending from 14 nations including Cuba.
Cedeño stressed the importance for legal systems to recognize and guarantee religious freedom. She also emphasized the need for societies to develop cultures of mutual respect and to foster collaboration between the public and private sectors so that this freedom helps to confront social inequality — the great challenge facing humanity today.
Vice President Cedeño cited Pope Francis’s warning, issued during his historic trip to the United States, that we live in a world where diverse forms of modern tyranny want to suppress religious freedom. Therefore, it is necessary that the faithful of different beliefs join their voices to cry for peace, tolerance and respect for the dignity and rights of others.
“The fight against inequalities, which is the common struggle of all religious denominations, is based on the preservation of the moral integrity of individuals,” said Cedeño. She went on to observe that “it is demonstrated that religious freedom promotes development with equity, solidarity and love of neighbor.”
During the symposium, the international religious freedom award was presented to Grim by Alfredo de la Cruz Baldera (pictured), Rector and Professor at the Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra (PUCMM).
Earlier in the day, Grim gave a keynote address on his groundbreaking research on the economic value of religion to the U.S. economy. He also addressed the connection between religious freedom and sustainable development, and the positive role business leaders can and are playing in advancing interfaith understanding and peace.
Grim also discussed practical ways businesses can get involved, including honoring their CEOs by nominating them for the Global Business & Interfaith Peace Awards held in tandem with each Paralympic Games, as well as committing to respecting freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) in the workplace by taking and implementing the FoRB Pledge.
The meeting focused on analyzing the theme ‘Religious freedom and economic development.’ Dr. Alfredo de la Cruz Baldera said that the symposium shows that “the person of faith, regardless of their tendency or way of understanding God, collaborates with the development of peoples and social peace.”
Delegates included diplomats from numerous countries, including the First Lady of Guyana, Sandra Granger, and Aruba’s Secretary of International Affairs Mireille Sint Jago.
The Cuban delegate, Dr. Enrique Alemán Gutiérrez, said that “for Cuba as a country and for Cuba’s platform for interreligious dialogue Quisicuaba, participation in this first encounter of religious freedom is of extraordinary importance. The symposium is new but the roots of interreligious exchange in Cuba, the Caribbean and the world are part of our history.”
Gutiérrez also said that “our presence legitimizes that space of mutuality and exchange that Cuba has opened to the world through the Platform for Interreligious Dialogue.” Lastly, he pointed out that he will participate in a panel on governance and religious freedom in which he will talk about Cuban experiences regarding the multiple historical relationships of freedom of law, religious expression and ecumenical relations between the state and the church in Cuba.
In addition to the Dominican Republic’s Catholic bishop for interreligious dialogue, other religious leaders participating included Rev. Gary Harriott, General Secretary of the Jamaican Council of Churches, Elder Quentin L. Cook, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Suleiman Bulbulia, Secretary of the Barbados Muslim Association.
Researchers and academics from the United States, South America and the Caribbean, as well as government representatives, academic authorities, business leaders and the religious sector shared their knowledge, experiences and useful practices to promote religious freedom in the region.
The symposium was sponsored by the Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra (PUCMM); the Chamber of Deputies of the Dominican Republic; Brigham Young University; the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation; Quisqueya University of Haiti; the Latin American Consortium of Religious Freedom of Argentina; and the International Consortium for Law and Religion Studies of Chile. The event took place at PUCMM from November 16 to 17, 2017.