Working for workplace religious diversity, equity & inclusion


Monthly Archives: April 2018

United Religions Initiative and Religious Freedom & Business Foundation Join Together in Interfaith Peacebuilding Efforts

25 Apr, 2018

United Religions Initiative’s (URI) Executive Director, The Rev. Victor H. Kazanjian, Jr., and Religious Freedom & Business Foundation’s  (RFBF) President, Brian Grim, have signed a memorandum of understanding to work together to strengthen each organization’s efforts to create cultures of peace through interfaith cooperation and understanding. The two organizations were introduced by Ambassador Mussie Hailu, URI Global Envoy, Continental Director for URI-Africa and URI Representative to the United Nations.

With U.S. offices in San Francisco, California, URI is the largest grassroots interfaith peacebuilding network in the world, cultivating peace and justice by engaging people to bridge religious and cultural differences and work together for the good of their communities and the world. URI implements its mission through local and global initiatives that build the capacity of its member groups (called Cooperation Circles) in 104 countries to engage in community action such as conflict resolution and reconciliation, environmental sustainability, education, women’s empowerment, youth leadership  programs, and advocacy for human rights.

Headquartered in Annapolis, Maryland, RFBF educates the global business community about how religious freedom is good for business and engages the business community in joining forces with government and non-government organizations in promoting respect for freedom of religion or belief. RFBF envisions a global future of innovative and sustainable economies, where freedom of religion or belief and diversity are respected. It accomplishes its work through its Empowerment Plus initiative, research, global awards, world forums, and education on how freedom of religion or belief is in the strategic interests of businesses and societies.

URI and RFBF will initiate their combined efforts by rolling out Empowerment Plus in conjunction with Launching Leaders Worldwide in URI’s East Africa Region under the leadership of URI’s Mussie Hailu. Empowerment Plus is an interfaith action program teaching young adults how to apply spiritual principles in their personal and professional lives, helping them develop a faith-centered framework with a focus on giving back. The interfaith Launching Leaders course is the cornerstone of Empowerment Plus. The course is packed with state-of-the-art videos and interactive exercises that help young adults answer important life questions and make plans for their lives. As an integral part of Empowerment Plus, young adults from different faith groups partner together to carry out practical interfaith action projects ranging from jobs programs to service projects.

Impact Visualized: New Video Resources on Business, Freedom & Faith

22 Apr, 2018

Visualize impact and change the world. Explore our video-rich initiatives: in-company training, network of CEOs building interfaith understanding and peace, women filmmakers creating new narratives, Millennials exercising leadership, and research showing religion’s socio-economic impact is measurable.

Workplace Training

RFBF together with the Religious Freedom Center of the Newseum Institute provide best practice training for companies on why allowing employees to bring their whole selves to work – faith and all – is good for the bottom line. Watch and share the promo video with companies and organizations in your network.

CEOs support peace at Paralympics

Be inspired by business leaders advancing interfaith understanding & peace worldwide hailing from Australia, Brazil, China, Indonesia, Italy, Myanmar, Netherlands, South Korea, UAE, UK, US.

Award-winning Short Films

Watch original short films that showcase how religious freedom leads to innovation, peace, entrepreneurship and human flourishing.

Interfaith Action

With Launching Leaders, we have just signed an agreement with the United Religions Initiative to provide our video-rich Empowerment+ leadership and empowerment initiative. URI has 914 local chapters in 104 Countries.

Impact is Measurable

The socio-economic contributions of religion and religious freedom to society are measurable. Check out this award-winning video.

Recent Posts

Can you visualize impact?

If you, your business or organization wants to help champion these values, please contact me.
Brian Grim, RFBF President


Women’s Empowerment and Success in Business Rely On Religious Freedom

17 Apr, 2018

by Shirin Taber*

We live in a remarkable age in where women’s rights in the workplace are gaining unprecedented traction. But as we approach the tipping point of global change, so are the forces that oppose it. As millions promote liberty around the world, too often the critical factor of religious freedom is overlooked in our conversation about gender equality in the business world.

Over the years, I have become passionate about religious freedom and its impact on women’s rights. My exposure to religious freedom was birthed in many ways while growing up in a home with an Iranian Muslim father and an American Christian mother.

My mother passed away from cancer when I was 14, so her spiritual role in my life was limited. Even though my father was a practicing Muslim, he never pressured me to follow his faith as he did. In fact, he encouraged me to think for myself, explore new ideas, play sports, travel abroad, and determine my own spiritual path. The religious freedom he allowed me became a conduit to uncover my personal faith, talents, vocation, and calling to help empower marginalized women.

I have also learned that women’s empowerment and success in the business world cannot occur without religious freedom. Women around the world must be able to choose their own faith perspective. Religion cannot be handed down to them by male-dominated communities. A woman’s choice regarding religion (and its practices) will be one of the greatest factors that impacts her personal peace and development.

In response to the research showing that religious freedom empowers women, the network I direct, Middle East Women’s Leadership Network (MEWLN), and the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation (RFBF) are partners in the Religious Freedom & Business Film Competition.

In our age of media, we believe the important message of women’s rights connection to religious freedom must be shared as widely as possible. Furthermore, we believe we must create visual narratives which encourage indigenous leaders to advance the legal principals of freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief for every person without distinction.

The goal of the film competition is to challenge filmmakers around the world to create short films that showcase how religious freedom leads to innovation, peace, security, entrepreneurship, and human flourishing in communities.

Strategically, these short films were shown at the 2018 Global Business & Interfaith Peace Awards ceremony. The grand prize winner of the 2018 competition received $5,000 and a trip to present her work. Additionally, the wining films are being shared with religious freedom networks, NGOs, and faith based organizations around the world.

My father impacted my life in many ways, but mostly I am grateful that he allowed me to choose my own religious identity, from which many of my personal freedoms and life accomplishments flow. I hope the same for the next generation.

The winning and finalist films include:

  • – $5000 GOLD GRAND PRIZE: Love Has No Borders (by Christy Anastas and Deborah Paul)
  • – SILVER FIRST RUNNER UP: Global FC (by Mariya Dostzadah Goodbrake)
  • – SECOND RUNNER UP: Equations (by Nancy Sawyer Schraeder and Naji Hendrix)
  • – THIRD RUNNER UP: Clarkston (by Erin Berhardt)
  • – FINALIST: Paper Dresses (by Lizzie Chaplin)

For more details about the competition and sample films, visit the MEWLN website or contact Shirin Taber, MEWLN Director, at

* Shirin is Iranian-American and the author of Muslims Next Door (Zondervan) and Wanting All the Right Things (Relevant). The Los Angeles Times, Detroit Free Press, Fox News Christianity Today and have featured her writing and work among Muslims and Christians alike. She served with Cru, Inspirational Films and the Christian Broadcasting Network. Shirin is passionate about helping women become world-class leaders by creating media for their mission. Partnering with various United Nations, NGOs and faith-based agencies, she helps leaders develop media strategies to expand their visibility and outreach platforms. She is a graduate of the University of Washington and speaks French, Farsi and English.

Religion & Leadership

12 Apr, 2018

Ancient wisdom for a modern world? New study.

Ali Aslan Gümüsay*

Leadership is both deeply personal and profoundly social. Similarly, religion shapes the core of personal beliefs and values, as well as an understanding of social relationships. It has extensive reach and intensive force. Too often it is regarded with a passive distance and a disdainful disregard.

Instead, we should more actively and constructively engage with religion and its impact on leadership. I have done so in an 18-month long study with LEAD Academy, a social business with non-profit status located in the heart of Berlin. The study builds on 32 semi-structured interviews with religious leaders of secular organizations and a half-day workshop. Interviewees and participants were adherents of the so-called Abrahamic religions Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Download the study here

Religion – a double-edged sword

Engaging with religion does not imply an uncritical rapprochement. On the contrary, engagement means to acknowledge religion as a social fact with a strong impact on many lives and wider society. It follows that religion needs to be taken seriously – both as a source for good and bad – and dealt with accordingly.

The study illustrates that religion is a double-edged sword that can cause both harm and good in leaders and beyond. Potential pitfalls are worldly negligence, non-critical reasoning, exclusivity claim and a belief in divine right. Potential opportunities are personal harmony, deeper meaning, social caring and lived values. If pitfalls are overcome and opportunities embraced, religion can be an anchor and compass for individuals, organizations, and societies in a complex world.

No room for faith?

Interviewees strongly encourage to put religion back on the agenda. Organizations need to consider how to literally and metaphorically offer room for faith. However, some leaders experience “aggressive secularism”, which makes the inclusion of faith particularly difficult. They acknowledge that yoga and meditation are trendy and have attributes of substitute religions, but often lack certain depth. In contrast, religion offers insights about concerns of deeper purpose. In other words, while essential themes for individual and organizational purpose are currently not sufficiently addressed and contemplated upon, religion may offer a means to approach these central concerns.

If practiced in context and in an inclusive way, religion offers an anchor for stability and guidance. This is not a small “if”. Still: religion can be a compass to navigate through and deal with ambiguity in a complex world. This can create a personal mindset and ‘soulset’ empowering leaders’ personal and social conduct. With the right engagement, this can have a significant positive impact on society.

The study concludes by offering five ways to engage with religion and leadership.

Additional Study:

Embracing religions in moral theories of leadership (Ali Aslan Gümüsay, published online April 13, 2018, Academy of Management Perspectives, In-Press)

ABSTRACT: Religions are social constituents of present societies that need to be integrated into theories of leadership. In this paper, I outline how three distinct characteristics, particularly present in Abrahamic religions, can significantly impact leadership principles and practices: a belief in the existence of and relationship to a God, the faith in and pursuit of a hereafter purpose, and the belief in and attempted adherence to a sacred scripture. Subsequently, I classify two approaches to examine their impact on leadership: a scripture-based and an empirical-based lens. I then highlight how the distinct characteristics can either inform and blend into or transform and modify moral theories of leadership.

About the author

* Ali Aslan Gümüsay is a postdoctoral DAAD Prime Fellow at the Vienna University of Economics & Business and the University of Hamburg. Before, he was a Lecturer in Management at Magdalen College, University of Oxford, and a strategy consultant with the Boston Consulting Group. He received his DPhil from Said Business School, University of Oxford.