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Monthly Archives: November 2018

Interfaith Leadership Course Launched in Three Regions of Africa

26 Nov, 2018

Launching Leaders Rolls Out Personal Development and Leadership Course to United Religions Initiative Cooperation Circles in Africa

Young adults in Kampala, Uganda, are the first United Religions Initiative (URI) group globally to participate in the Launching Leaders course. Sponsored by URI Cooperation Circles, the course teaches personal development and leadership principles, coupled with individual faith or belief. As Cooperation Circle members of various faith traditions work together developing plans for their lives, interfaith cooperation, understanding, and empowerment are natural products.

“Launching leaders will help the participants as they listen to and learn from each other through sharing purposeful life experiences during the group sessions,” said Kizito Nganda, the local URI facilitator in Kampala. “I believe the mentorship part of the course will inspire and encourage participants to do more with their lives.”

The interfaith Launching Leaders course, offered by Launching Leaders Worldwide, Inc., is a cornerstone of the Empowerment Plus program at Religious Freedom & Business Foundation  (RFBF). RFBF, Launching Leaders and URI have formed a partnership to work together to bring the powerful course initially to young people in Africa. URI is the largest grassroots interfaith peacebuilding network in the world.

The Launching Leaders course has been taught in various parts of the world for multiple years. Roll out for URI is in three URI sub-regions in Africa – Great Lakes, Western Africa, and Southern Africa. Course start-up includes identifying local facilitators, who receive training and all the materials needed to begin – online access to the course and book, a facilitator’s guide, and other support materials.  The course is offered a no charge for URI Cooperation Circle members.

Participants learn both online and in-person, identifying their core values, making plans for their lives, finding and adopting mentors, and learning principles and skills that will help them lead out in their own lives and give back to others. Those who complete the full course receive a certificate from Religious Freedom & Business Foundation and Launching Leaders Worldwide Inc.

Emmanuel Ivorgba, PhD, URI’s Regional Coordinator for West Africa, recently completed the course in advance of introducing it to his region. “The Launching Leaders course is designed in such a way that anybody can benefit from taking it – whether a highly intellectual professor, someone just finishing college, or an individual with little formal education.”

Ivorgba is initially introducing the Launching Leaders course to URI Cooperation Circle members in Abuja, Nigeria, this month. He then intends to roll out the course for Cooperation Circles in Liberia, Ghana, Cameroon, and the Ivory Coast.

Despina Namwembe, URI Great Lakes Regional Coordinator, recently introduced the course to URI’s young adult leadership team with members from Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, and South Sudan.

Southern Africa Regional Coordinator, Karen Barensche, will introduce the course to Cooperation Circles in South Africa and then Malawi.

Ambassador Mussie Hailu, URI Global Envoy and Representative to the United Nations and Continental Director for URI-Africa, introduced RFBF and Launching Leaders to URI, and initiated the global partnership.

“We are anxious to improve the lives of URI Cooperation Circle participants through the Launching Leaders course, and in the process create interpersonal bonds of peace, interfaith cooperation, and understanding,” said Hailu.

For information on starting a Launching Leaders group within a URI Cooperation Circle, please contact: Launching Leaders Executive Director Michael Leonard or URI.


Interfaith Empowerment+ from Religious Freedom & Business Fnd on Vimeo.

Rise of Women’s Rights and Religious Liberties in Muslim World

25 Nov, 2018

by Shirin Taber*

Tunisia is now the front runner in expanding women’s rights and religious liberties among Muslims.  And the world is watching.

In 2017, Tunisia’s President Essibsi celebrated his country’s National Women’s Day calling for a change in the constitution to allow Muslim women to marry non-Muslim men.

Historically, Islam has prohibited Muslim women from marrying men from other faiths, unless they convert to Islam. However, Muslim men are allowed to marry non-Muslims.

President Essibsi called on leaders to make changes to Article 73, arguing that the Tunisian constitution, in its sixth chapter, grants citizens the freedom of belief and conscience.

In his mission to achieve gender equality, President Essibsi also called for amendments to women’s inheritance. According to Islamic law, women inherit only one half of men’s inheritance.

President Essibsi shared, “The state is committed to achieving full equality between women and men … and equal opportunities for them in assuming all responsibilities, as stipulated in Article 46 of the Constitution.”

On November 23, 2018, Tunisia became the first Arab country to achieve gender equality in inheritance, after the Tunisian Cabinet approved a law that would allow men and women to inherit equal amounts, contrary to what is stipulated in the Quran and Islamic world.

Some Muslims object to the new law, claiming it contradicts Quranic verses which state that males should inherit twice the amount as females.

However, President Essibsi shared that citizens should be given the choice to follow Sharia Law in inheritance if they so wish. But not through compulsion or force.

President Essibsi shared that “Tunisia’s Constitution supports a civil country that is based on three elements: citizenship, the will of the people, and the supremacy of law. The rights and duties of Tunisian men and women are equal, and the state is committed to defending women’s rights, and supporting and developing them.”

For the Muslim world, the Quran reads in Sura 2:256, “Let there be no compulsion in religion.” Accordingly, faith under force is not genuine. Therefore, it is never in the public’s interest to force belief on individuals, and restrict their right to question, explore and fulfill their purpose.

The Muslim world is complex, and in growing numbers, Muslims value the ideals of religious liberty and pluralism. Muslims are writing and speaking about Islam and religious freedom.

When women are allowed to exercise freedom of conscience and contribute to the economy, communities experience greater peace and prosperity long term.

Namely, religious freedom, is an antidote to extremism.


* Shirin Taber is director of the Middle East Women’s Leadership Network, and leads Empower Women Media and the Dare to Overcome Film Competition. Contact: Shirin@visualstory.org

Photo Credit: Roya News

Further Reading

Tunisia becomes first Arab country to approve gender equality in inheritance

Tunisia’s President calls for legalising interfaith marriage for Muslim women

 

Is an Argentinian Businessman a Saint?

24 Nov, 2018

Enrique Shaw: the Argentine businessman whom Francis may soon beatify

Fernán de Elizalde, an Argentinian businessman and member of the Christian Association of Business Executives (ACDE), told CNA he is “convinced Shaw was a man of outstanding holiness. We’ll probably have in the future the first businessman saint in the world.” Elizalde is also vice postulator – or presenter – of Shaw’s cause for beatification.

CNA also reported an interview with Pope Francis on the Mexican TV station Televisa, in which the Pontiff said, “I’ve known rich people and I’m moving forward with the cause for beatification over there [in Argentina] of a rich Argentine businessman. Enrique Shaw was rich, yet saintly. A person can have money. God gives it to him so he can administer it well. And this man administered it well. Not with paternalism, but by fostering the [personal] growth of people who needed help.”

Enrique Ernesto Shaw (1921 – 1962). Shaw was an Argentine Roman Catholic businessman. He was born in France and later emigrated to Argentina where he served in the marines. He promoted and encouraged business growth in accordance with the social doctrine of the faith and he founded both the Christian Association of Business Executives (ACDE). He was also a prolific writer and published a range of books. His cause of sainthood commenced in 2001 and he has been accorded the title Servant of God to recognize the commencement of the process.


ACDE is an association of business leaders, which aims to become an area of ​​analysis and reflection of the business theme in the light of Christian values; and of action, through its social commitment in a business work governed by ethical principles and at the service of the common good. ACDE is an association of people and not of companies, this being a distinctive element with respect to other organizations.


Writings & Resources by and on Enrique Shaw

Below are links to English versions of a short video introduction of Enrique Shaw and some of his speeches and writings.

Shaw: Subdue the earth

Shaw: The Business Company. It’s nature – Goals and economic development

Shaw: The Mission of Business Executives

Shaw: Eucharist and Business Life

Shaw: Memo to staff about work reduction due to lower demand

Jesuit Business School speech by Dr. Thomas A. Bausch, including support for Shaw’s beatification and canonization

Pope Francis mentioning Enrique Shaw on EWTN


See recent talk by ACDE member Roberto Murchison at the G20 Interfaith Forum.

Espiritualidad y empresarialidad

24 Nov, 2018

¿Que efecto tiene mi espiritualidad sobre mi profesión como empresario?

by Roberto Murchison* (ver versión en inglés)

Resumen de comentarios en 2018 G20 Interfaith Forum, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 26 de septiembre**

Yo creo en un Dios creador del cielo y la tierra y todo lo que hay en ella.  Creo que el hombre ha sido puesto en la tierra para ser co-creador con Dios y para actuar de mayordomo o administrador de su creación.

Esto implica que nosotros no somos los dueños y por ende no podemos hacer lo que se nos ocurre con su creación.  Esto tiene implicancias obvias, como ser el cuidado del medio ambiente o el uso responsable de los recursos naturales, pero también implicancias menos obvias sobre nuestros bienes materiales y en especial las empresas que manejamos.

Hemos sido puestos como dueños o administradores de bienes que si bien nos pueden pertenecer legalmente, en la arena espiritual le pretensen a Dios y por ende su función principal no es satisfacer nuestras ansias materiales egoístas, sino más bien para el bien común de la humanidad y su creación.

A nivel personal, cultivar una espiritualidad, en mi caso cristiana de la rama protestante me ha enriquecido como persona y por ende como empresario.

1.- “Accountability” – rendición de cuentas.

Este termino poco conocido y aplicado en estas latitudes implica que aún siendo dueños tenemos que rendir cuentas y en un punto es un accionista que no solo ve un balance auditado.  Mira las intenciones con que se maneja la empresa, la trasparencia, el cuidado de la gente y a quien no hay cajones donde esconder las cosas.  Es como un chofer con cuadernos sentado en el escritorio de uno.

2.- Ama a tus enemigos.

Este es un aspecto muy complicado para mi.  En el ámbito empresarial uno muy seguido se cruza con “enemigos”, gente que quiere que las cosas sean distintas a lo que uno le parece deberían ser.  A veces cosas o propuestas que son deshonestas, pero otras que son honestas pero que a uno no le gusta como ser negociaciones gremiales, licitaciones, competidores que mejoran precios, etc, etc y uno debe desarrollar una actitud de no odiar a esas personas.  Este concepto se da a patadas con las escuelas de negocios o culturas empresariales basadas en la estrategia de guerra.

3.- Ama a tu prójimo como a ti mismo.

Concepto común a casi todas las religiones del mundo.  Siendo un ingeniero y de origen familiar sajón, todos los temas emocionales son un aprendizaje para mi.  La espiritualidad me ha ayudado mucho en este aspecto de mi vida y mi labor como empresario.  Entender más y mejor al ser humano.  Por un lado conociéndome a mi mismo mejor para poder conocer al otro.

4.-  En el mundo de Dios no hay jerarquías ni discriminación.

Para Dios no hay personas más valiosas o importantes que otras.  La Biblia, tanto en el antiguo testamento como en el nuevo en la época de Jesús tiene sobrados ejemplos en que Dios muestra el valor que le da a las personas independientemente de su origen, genero, status social, etc.

Esto ha tenido dos implicancias a nivel personal. Por un lado el desarrollo de la humildad, no necesariamente en la modestia sino en una visión más profunda de entender que todos en la empresa somos importantes independientemente del trabajo que nos toca hacer. El otro aspecto tiene que ver con trabajar para eliminar los preconceptos que tenemos todos nosotros que hacen que consciente o inconscientemente discriminemos de alguna forma, ya sea por genero, educación o lo que fuese.

5.- Entender que Dios esta en control.

Este es un aspecto muy importante en Argentina.  Ser empresario aquí puede ser muy insalubre si uno se toma pecho todos los va y vienes de la economía y su impacto en las empresas.  Me he preocupado de tantas cosas que luego no ocurrieron y he confiado tanto en cosas que finalmente no sucedieron que humildemente he llegado a la conclusión que hay que hacer lo mejor que uno puede, pero luego hay que confiar en que las cosas pasan como Dios quiere y debemos en un punto aceptar su soberanía si es para bien o para mal.

Pregunta 2

Luego, yendo de lo personal a lo general hablarían de como la fe y la ética que viene de la religión debería impactar o guiar la economía.

En primer lugar no estoy seguro que la ética viene de la religión, creo que viene de la espiritualidad y de tener una relación personal con Dios.  Yo no soy cristian porque obedezco a Dios, sino porque soy Cristiano quiero obedecer sus preceptos.

Cada vez más creo en el impacto que podemos tener en nuestro metro cuadrado.  El efecto contagio que tiene tener una actitud positiva, amable o de perdón sobre las personas que están a nuestro alrededor. Es como la Cadena de los Favores en la película Pay it Forward.

Occidente esta en el problema que esta porque en general las sociedades le han dado la espalda a Dios y por ende no hay voluntad de obedecer sus preceptos.

Pregunta 3

La última pregunta sería como pasarías estos valores religiosos/éticos en los negocios a las siguientes generaciones.

La única manera de pasar los preceptos y valores a la próxima generación es viviendolos en carne propia.  Por suerte vivimos en una sociedad mucho más transparente, se sabe todo y hoy los chicos o las próximas geenraciones ven a través de las paredes, saben medir mucho mejor que nosotros las intenciones.  NO sirve más predicar los valores, se vivien o no exiten.

En palabras de San Francisco de Asís, “predica todo el tiempo predica y si hace falta usa palabras.”


* Roberto Murchison es el CEO de Grupo Murchison, dedicado a las actividades portuarias y logísticas en Argentina. Es el presidente de Terminal Zárate, vicepresidente de Murcan y director general de Murchison Uruguay. También es el presidente de Cámara de Puertos Privados y Comerciales (CPPC). Es un ingeniero industrial formado en el Instituto Tecnológico de Buenos Aires (ITBA) y tiene una maestría en administración de empresas de la Sloan School of Management del Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT – Boston, EE. UU.) Murchison forma parte del consejo asesor de la Asociación Cristiana de Direigentes de Empresa (ACDE). 


** El Foro interreligioso del G20 tuvo lugar desde el 26 al 28 de septiembre de 2018 en Buenos Aires bajo el lema “Construir un consenso para un desarrollo justo y sostenible. Contribuciones religiosas para un futuro digno”. ACDE participó en la sesión paralela sobre “Fe y finanzas: compromisos y contribuciones religiosas” que se realizó el día miércoles 26 de septiembre por la tarde en el Hotel Sheraton Buenos Aires. Compartieron el panel Roberto Murchison, CEO del Grupo Murchison, junto a Federico Quintana, vicepresidente de ACDE. Ofició de moderador Brian Grim, Presidente de la Religious Freedom and Business Foundation de Estados Unidos. El objetivo de este panel fue reflexionar sobre los desafíos prácticos que se plantean al vivir la espiritualidad en coherencia con la profesión empresaria.

Spirituality and Entrepreneurship

24 Nov, 2018

What effect does my spirituality have on my profession as an entrepreneur?

by Roberto Murchison* (see original in Spanish)

Summary of comments at 2018 G20 Interfaith Forum, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sept. 26**

I believe in a God who is creator of heaven and earth and everything in it. I believe that man has been put on earth to be co-creator with God and to act as steward or administrator of his creation.

This implies that we are not the owners and therefore we cannot do what we wish with the creation. This has obvious implications, such as caring for the environment or responsible use of natural resources, but also less obvious, it has implications for our material assets and especially the companies we manage.

We have been placed as owners or administrators of goods that, although they may belong to us legally, in the spiritual arena they belong to God and therefore their main function is not to satisfy our selfish material yearnings, but rather their purpose is for the common good of humanity and creation.

Implications of Faith for My Work

On a personal level, cultivating a spirituality, in my case being a Protestant Christian, has enriched me as a person and therefore as an entrepreneur. This spirituality has implications for me as an entrepreneur in five areas.

1. “Accountability” – rendering of accounts

This little known and applied term in these latitudes implies that even though we are owners we have to render an account and at one point it is a shareholder that not only sees an audited balance. Look at the intentions with which the company is handled, the transparency, the care of the people and to whom there are no drawers where to hide things. It’s like a driver with notebooks sitting at one’s desk.

2. Love your enemies

This is a very complicated aspect for me. In the business world one often comes across “enemies”, people who want things to be different from what they think they should be. Sometimes things or proposals that are dishonest, but others that are honest but that one does not like such as trade negotiations, bids, competitors that improve prices, etc, etc and one must develop an attitude of not hating those people. This concept is kicked out with business schools or business cultures based on the strategy of war.

3. Love your neighbor as yourself

Concept common to almost all religions of the world. Being an engineer and of Saxon family origin, all the emotional topics are a learning for me. Spirituality has helped me a lot in this aspect of my life and my work as an entrepreneur. Understand more and better the human being. On the one hand knowing myself better to know the other.

4. In God’s world there are no hierarchies or discrimination

For God there are no people more valuable or important than others. The Bible, both in the old testament and in the new one in the time of Jesus, has many examples in which God shows the value he gives to people regardless of their origin, gender, social status, etc.

This has had two implications on a personal level. On the one hand the development of humility, not necessarily in modesty but in a deeper vision of understanding that everyone in the company is important regardless of the work that we have to do. The other aspect has to do with working to eliminate the preconceptions that we all have that make us consciously or unconsciously discriminate in some way, be it by gender, education or whatever.

5. Understand that God is in control

This is a very important aspect in Argentina. Being an entrepreneur here can be very unhealthy if one takes a bite all goes and comes from the economy and its impact on companies. I have worried about so many things that did not happen then and I have relied so much on things that finally did not happen that I have humbly come to the conclusion that you have to do the best you can, but then you have to trust that things happen as God wants. and we must at one point accept their sovereignty if it is for good or for bad.

How Religious Ethics Relate to the Economy

Then, going from the personal to the general, how should faith and ethics that comes from religion impact or guide the economy?

First of all, I’m not sure that ethics comes from religion, I think it comes from spirituality and having a personal relationship with God. I am not a Christian because I obey God, but, because I am a Christian, I want to obey his precepts.

Increasingly I believe in the impact we can have on our square meter. The contagious effect of having a positive, kind or forgiving attitude on the people around us. It is like the Chain of Favors in the movie Pay it Forward.

The West has the problem that is because in general societies have turned their backs on God and therefore there is no will to obey its precepts.

Passing Spiritual Values to the Next Generation

The last question to cover is how I would pass these religious / ethical values in business to the next generations.

The only way to pass the precepts and values to the next generation is to live them in the flesh. Luckily we live in a much more transparent society, we know everything and today the kids or the next generations see through the walls, they know how to measure intentions better than we do. It is of no use to preach values; they must be lived or they do not exist.

I’d like to conclude with the words of St. Francis of Assisi, “Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.”


* Roberto Murchison is CEO of Grupo Murchison, dedicated to port and logistic activities in Argentina. He is the President of Terminal Zárate, Vice-President of Murcan, and managing director of Murchison Uruguay. He is also the President of Cámara de Puertos Privados y Comerciales (CPPC). He is an industrial engineer educated at Instituto Tecnológico de Buenos Aires (ITBA) and holds a Master’s in Business Administration from the Sloan School of Management of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT – Boston, USA). Murchison is on the advisory board of Asociación Cristiana de Direigentes de Empresa (ACDE).


** The G20 Interfaith Forum took place from 26-28 September 2018 in Buenos Aires under the slogan “Build a consensus for fair and sustainable development. Religious contributions for a dignified future “. ACDE participated in the parallel session on “Faith and finances: commitments and religious contributions” that took place on Wednesday, September 26 in the afternoon at the Sheraton Buenos Aires Hotel. The panel was shared by Roberto Murchison , CEO of the Murchison Group, together with Federico Quintana , vice president of ACDE, and moderated by Brian Grim, President of the Religious Freedom and Business Foundation of the United States. The objective of this panel was to reflect on the practical challenges that arise when living spirituality in coherence with the business profession.

Belt and Road Conference, Beijing

23 Nov, 2018

Brian Grim  (葛百彦), Ph.D.

I delivered a keynote speech at the Oct. 13-14 conference at Minzu University in Beijing on religion’s role in China’s Belt and Road initiative using data from my research at Boston University. Below is a summary of my presentation.

Chinese President Xi Jinping launched the Belt & Road Initiative in 2013. Over the past five years, scores of countries and international organizations have actively participated in the initiative which, according to Chinese authorities, promotes common development and sharing, policy communication, facility connectivity, unimpeded trade, financing, and people-to-people links.

As with any grand plan, challenges are numerous. Just as the pilgrims in the Chinese epic Journey to the West had to overcome a series of challenges to bring Buddhist scriptures back from India, Chinese goods, services and businesses also need to overcome many challenges on the road to success. One leading Hong Kong Business CEO investing heavily into the Belt and Road Initiative pointed to cultural barriers as “quite the most challenging part” of being successful.

In the introduction of my presentation, I shared own personal history in China, beginning in 1982 when my wife and I taught English at Hua Qiao University in Fujian, almost two decades before Xi Jinping was governor of the province. During that year, our oldest daughter (葛天恩) was, we are told, the first American to be born in China after China and the U.S. normalized relations during Pres. Jimmy Carter’s administration. In those years having an electric fan was considered a luxury, and we were the only private individuals we knew with a camera. How much has changes since then! Today, there are about 1.3 billion active mobile devices in China, most with a built-in camera.

I also shared about my work from 1985-88 in China’s northwest Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, where I worked with the former governor, Wang En-mao, a Long March colleague of Mao Zedeng and Deng Xioping, on several initiatives to empower Uygurs educationally and economically. During those years, a proposal I worked on for a trilingual graduate school — Uygur, Putonghua (Mandarin) and English — eventually was approved personally by then Chinese Premier Deng Xioping. The school was unfortunately never established.

One highlight of that period was a trilingual concert in Uygur, Putonghua and English at Xinjiang’s newly constructed Great Hall. As part the educational exchanges involving more than 1,000 students and teachers in Xinjiang that I was organizing between U.S. Baptist universities and universities in Xinjiang, a choir of students and young teachers from our summer program performed a song popularized by American Singer, Sandi Patty, “Love in Any Language.”

  • Love in any language, straight from the heart
  • Pulls us all together, never apart
  • And once we learn to speak it, all the world will hear
  • Love in any language, fluently spoken here.

In my 2018 keynote speech, I argued that such experiences from years ago indicate that the possibilities of interfaith and intercultural understanding in Xinjiang are real, and such types of programs need to be revisited.

Religious Diversity: An Aid to China’s Economy

A Pew Research Center religious diversity study – based on methodology I developed with Todd Johnson – finds that about one-in-three people live in countries with high religious diversity (also see Chapter 3 in our book, The World’s Religions in Figures).

While the majority of the world’s countries (59%) have relatively low religious diversity, because many countries with low diversity have small populations, only a third (33%) of the world’s people live in them according to the study. About a third (32%) of the world’s people live in countries with moderate religious diversity and another third (35%) live in countries with high or very high religious diversity.

China has a very diverse mixture of the eight major religious groups counted in the Pew study: Buddhists (18.2%), Christians (5.1%), unaffiliated (52.2%), Muslims (1.8%), other religions (0.7%), Hindus (<1%), folk religionists (21.9%) and Jews (<1%).

During the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, religion was completely outlawed and people were routinely beaten and killed for having superstitious or religious beliefs. While it is true that today China has very high government restrictions on religion relative to other countries in the world, current conditions are far less restrictive than they were in the 1960s and 1970s.

Today, China has the world’s largest Buddhist population, largest folk religionist population, largest Taoist population, 9th largest Christian population and 17th largest Muslim population – ranking between Yemen and Saudi Arabia (Pew Research Center 2012).

Acknowledging China’s very high religious diversity is important because countries with higher levels of religious diversity are more globally competitive. Elsewhere (Grim 2015) I have made the case that China’s very high religious diversity contributes to the country’s remarkable economic growth, which has not only fueled global growth but also lifted more than 500 million people out of abject poverty.

Globally, what do the data say about the relationship between religious diversity and global competitiveness? We can see clearly that countries with higher levels of religious diversity are on average significantly more globally competitive by comparing the Religious Diversity Index (RDI) scores of the top 27 economies on the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index (GCI) with the 110 lower ranking economies (China is ranked 27th), as shown in the table below. The median RDI for the top 27 economies is 5.4 compared with a median of 2.5 for the remaining 110 economies for which the World Economic Forum calculates a GDI score. Looked at another way, 59% of the top economies (16 of 27) have high or very high religious diversity compared with just 17% of the remaining 110 economies (19 of 110).

What are the mechanisms through which religious diversity contributes to economic competitiveness? First, research shows that diversity is in many situations a plus for businesses. And because more than eight-in-ten people in the world practice a religion, religious diversity is one of the most basic ways to increase what is called 2-D diversity, that is two dimensions of diversity, covering inherent traits (such as gender and age) and acquired traits (such as skills and education). Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Hewlett, Marshall and Sherbin (2013) note that “firms with 2-D diversity are 45% likelier to report a growth in market share over the previous year and 70% likelier to report that the firm captured a new market.”

Religion is a unique contribution to organizational and business diversity in that it can involve both inherent and acquired traits. That is, to the degree that someone follows the faith of their parents and/or community, it is inherent. And, to the degree that religion is a matter of personal preference and choice, it is also acquired through religious education and practice.

Second, diversity enhances creativity and is a critical component of building teams or organizations capable of innovating. Diversity stimulates the search for novel information and perspectives, leading to better decision making and problem solving. “Diversity can improve the bottom line of companies and lead to unfettered discoveries and breakthrough innovations. … Being around people who are different from us makes us more creative, more diligent and harder-working” (Phillips 2014).

Religious diversity within a country makes the local marketplace of ideas, products and businesses more diverse and innovative. Indeed, business and technological innovations often come from religious and other minorities who often have different life experiences and frames of reference from the majority population. In a sense, because they are a minority, they often have to try harder. As an example, some of the most successful global companies had leadership from religious minorities, such as Marriott International, which was founded and for many years led by a family who are devout members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), who number only 16 million worldwide. One of India’s most successful and respected companies is the Tata Group. It was founded and is owned by the Tata family who are members of a very small religious group called Parsis, a small subgroup of Zoroastrianism with fewer than 60,000 members.

And in China religious minorities add significant value to the economy, such as China’s domestic halal market valued at $20 billion annually (Allen-Ebrahimian 2016). And according to a study in the China Economic Review by Qunyong Wang (Institute of Statistics and Econometrics, Nankai University, Tianjin) and Xinyu Lin (Renmin University of China, Beijing), Chinese Christianity – another of China’s minority religions – boosts the country’s economic growth. Specifically, they find that robust economic growth occurs in areas of China where Christian congregations and institutions are prevalent (Wang and Lin 2014).

This also points to the possibility that China can benefit from this internal religious diversity by Chinese religious minorities playing a critical role in helping to successfully deal with businesses from countries and communities that share their background. For instance, even though China produces halal food for export, China’s halal industry remains a negligible 0.1 percent of a world halal market that’s “valued at more than $650 billion and is projected to reach up to $1.6 trillion within a few years. Huge growth is expected over the next several decades as the world’s Muslim population grows faster than every other major religious demographic, and as urbanization and rising incomes in developing countries with large Muslim populations mean that more of the world’s Muslims will be buying, rather than producing, their own food” (Allen-Ebrahimian 2016). Having Chinese Muslims become leaders for halal exports might help win the trust of Muslim populations around the world.

References
  • – Allen-Ebrahimian, Bethany (2016). “China Wants to Feed the World’s 1.6 Billion Muslims.” Foreign Policy. May 2, 2016.
  • – Grim, Brian J. (2015). “The Modern Chinese Secret to Sustainable Growth: Teligious Freedom and Diversity,” The Review of Faith & International Affairs Volume 13, Issue 2, 2015.
  • – Hewlett, Sylvia Ann, Melinda Marshall and Laura Sherbin. (2013). “How Diversity Can Drive Innovation.” Harvard Business Review, December 2013. Internet:
  • – Pew research Center (2012). The Global Religious Landscape
  • – Phillips, Katherine W. “How Diversity Makes Us Smarter.” Scientific American, October 1, 2014.
  • – Wang, Qunyong, and Xinyu Lin. 2014. “Does Religious Beliefs Affect Economic Growth? Evidence from Provincial-level Panel Data in China.” China Economic Review 31: 277–287.

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Trump and Xi – Why Bring Up Religious Freedom at G20 Economic Summit?

23 Nov, 2018

Brian Grim  (葛百彦), Ph.D.

Religious freedom is an economic asset, certainly to the U.S. but also to China. As Trump & Xi meet in Argentina at the annual G20 economic summit, below are some points to ponder.

Religious freedom: Asset to economic recovery and growth

As the world navigates away from years of poor economic performance, religious freedom is an unrecognized asset to economic recovery and growth, being one of only three factors significantly associated with global economic growth, according to a 2014 study. The study looked at GDP growth for 173 countries in 2011 and controlled for two-dozen different financial, social, and regulatory influences. The study also examines and finds a positive relationship between religious freedom and ten of the twelve pillars of global competitiveness, as measured by the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index (link).

Religious Freedom: Sets Faith Groups Free to Help Tackle Poverty

Poverty, some argue, can only be effectively tackled by governments enforcing top-down, big-P Poverty reduction policies and programs. But a host of religious groups empowered by religious freedom haven’t gotten the memo. Innovative faith-based initiatives worldwide are tackling poverty using bottom-up, small-p poverty alleviation approaches that empower individuals to be resourceful, resilient and self-reliant. Indeed, a central aspect of religious freedom is that it gives faith groups license to innovate and contribute to the wellbeing of individuals, communities and nations. But where religious freedom is curtailed, so are such innovations. For instance, reform-minded Saudi princess Basmah bint Saud argues, religion “should not be a shield behind which we hide from the world but a driving force that inspires us to innovate and contribute to our surroundings.” See examples of poverty reduction set free by religious freedom at this link.

Religious Freedom Yields $1.2T US Religious Economy

Safeguards for religious freedom have helped to produce a dynamic religious environment in the United States that contributes socially and economically according to a 2016 study. Socially, religious groups provide over 1.5 million different social services, such as faith-based job training programs. This religious freedom also contributes $1.2 Trillion dollars to the US economy annually. That is equivalent to U.S. religion 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. See study and short video highlighting the results at this link.

China’s Religious Liberalization After Cultural Revolution Creates Economic Asset

A Pew Research Center religious diversity study – based on methodology I developed with Todd Johnson – finds that about one-in-three people live in countries with high religious diversity (also see Chapter 3 in our book, The World’s Religions in Figures).

While the majority of the world’s countries (59%) have relatively low religious diversity, because many countries with low diversity have small populations, only a third (33%) of the world’s people live in them according to the study. About a third (32%) of the world’s people live in countries with moderate religious diversity and another third (35%) live in countries with high or very high religious diversity.

China has a very diverse mixture of the eight major religious groups counted in the Pew study: Buddhists (18.2%), Christians (5.1%), unaffiliated (52.2%), Muslims (1.8%), other religions (0.7%), Hindus (<1%), folk religionists (21.9%) and Jews (<1%).

During the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, religion was completely outlawed and people were routinely beaten and killed for having superstitious or religious beliefs. While it is true that today China has very high government restrictions on religion relative to other countries in the world, current conditions are far less restrictive than they were in the 1960s and 1970s.

Today, China has the world’s largest Buddhist population, largest folk religionist population, largest Taoist population, 9th largest Christian population and 17th largest Muslim population – ranking between Yemen and Saudi Arabia (Pew Research Center 2012).

Acknowledging China’s very high religious diversity is important because countries with higher levels of religious diversity are more globally competitive. China’s very high religious diversity contributes to the country’s remarkable economic growth, which has not only fueled global growth but also lifted more than 500 million people out of abject poverty.

Globally, what do the data say about the relationship between religious diversity and global competitiveness? We can see clearly that countries with higher levels of religious diversity are on average significantly more globally competitive by comparing the Religious Diversity Index (RDI) scores of the top 27 economies on the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index (GCI) with the 110 lower ranking economies (China is ranked 27th), as shown in the table below. The median RDI for the top 27 economies is 5.4 compared with a median of 2.5 for the remaining 110 economies for which the World Economic Forum calculates a GDI score. Looked at another way, 59% of the top economies (16 of 27) have high or very high religious diversity compared with just 17% of the remaining 110 economies (19 of 110).

How to Help Employees Engage with Passion, Kent Johnson

19 Nov, 2018

Welcome to our interview with Kent Johnson. Kent is a Senior Corporate Advisor for the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation (RFBF) and a management consultant on religious diversity at work. Kent works with RFBF to help companies adopt and practice best practices regarding religious diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Kent recently retired from his role as a Senior Counsel at Texas Instruments Incorporated and now serves as a consultant to multinational companies on topics related to religious accommodation and faith in the workplace. Kent helps companies see the appropriate role of religious expression and religious diversity at work, in order to strengthen corporate cultures of trust, mutual respect and organizational effectiveness.

I’m Bill Fox, Co-founder here at Exploring Forward-Thinking Workplaces. It’s my pleasure to introduce you to Kent Johnson today. I shared my reflections on my interview with Kent at Are you religious?

Kent, welcome to this forum and thank you for contributing to the questions that are at the heart of Exploring Forward-Thinking Workplaces.


Q1: How can we create workplaces where every voice matters, everyone thrives and finds meaning, and change and innovation happen naturally?

The starting point is to truly value our employees. Not to merely look for what they can do to help us achieve corporate profitability goals and short-term time-related goals, but to care about them as human beings.  My particular focus in this vein is on religious diversity, and here’s why:

A key hallmark of humanness is our capacity to embrace principles and beliefs that define us and that motivate and inform our daily lives.

If we really want to unleash diverse perspectives and energy, we must look for ways to help employees engage work in accordance with their deeply held beliefs. That crucial connection of passion with work is key to flourishing.

One of Webster’s definitions of “religion” is “a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith.” In that broad sense, nearly everyone is “religious.”  Everyone has some deeply held principles and beliefs. We must free people to connect their “religion” to their work.

There’s a wonderful story that comes from the movie Chariots of Fire. The protagonist is a very religious person who competes for an Olympic gold medal.  His religious sister asks why he spends so much time and effort running.  His reply is classic: , “When I run, I feel God’s pleasure.”

Think about that:  When I invent, I feel God’s pleasure! When I resolve conflicts or stand up against favoritism, I feel God’s pleasure!  When I help others succeed, I feel God’s pleasure! When I work hard – at great personal cost – to do what’s right though nobody’s looking, I feel God’s pleasure! Is there any employer who wouldn’t want this kind of motivation in their workplace?

Religion – defined as a set of deeply held personal principles and beliefs – is an appropriate focus for the workplace.

By definition, religion is personal. Our workplaces are becoming increasingly diverse. It’s counterproductive to try to press people into a predetermined mold. If we value people, we will try to understand the deeply held beliefs that define and motivate them.

Read full interview …

Seoul: Business for Peace at STS&P 2018

19 Nov, 2018

Businesses do much more than just create profits. Businesses are where people find employment and a means to support themselves and their families. Businesses are also engines of social change and development.

Businesses support civil society through foundations and enterprises that work on everything from alleviating poverty to promoting peace and development.

Enterprises are places where people from different cultural, religious and ethnic backgrounds can come together for shared purpose and goals. This session will look at the multiple ways that businesses help create sustainable development and peaceful, flourishing societies.

View full STS&P Website

<Program & Composition>

Time and Venue : 2018. 11. 30th (Fri.) 10am~12pm @ Room 306, KINTEX

Moderator Doyoung Kim/ CSR Forum Korea President

Keynote Speech 1 Brian Grim/ RFBF President

Keynote Speech 2 Siwon Kim/ Editor in Chief, Chosun Media Better Future

Keynote Speech 3 Eundong Hwang/ SK Telecom AI Business Unit Head

Keynote Speech 4 Dongwon Seoh/ EBS General Manager

Panel Discussion Prof. Yonghee Yang/ Seoul Theological University, President of KANPOR Donghyung Lee/ Center Manager, Chosun Media Better Future Eundong Hwang/ SK Telecom AI Business Unit Head Dongwon Seo/ EBS General Manager Siwon Kim/ Editor in Chief, Chosun Media Better Future.

 

Preparing for Tokyo 2020

19 Nov, 2018

グリム博士が光祥さまと面会,大聖堂6F特別応接室,庭野光祥,光祥さま,庭野光祥,光祥さま

Last month Brian Grim, RFBF president, met leaders of Rissho Kosei-kai to discuss Dare to Overcome, our Global Business Festival & Peace Awards in support of the Paralympic Movement.

Rissho Kosei-kai is a worldwide Buddhist organization founded in Japan in 1938 by Nikkyo Niwano and Myoko Naganuma. It combines the wisdom of both the Lotus Sutra and the foundational teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha. Its purpose is to bring these transformative teachings to the modern world.

Centrality of Peace

Rissho Kosei-kai members pledge to follow the bodhisattva way: To bring peace to their families, communities, and countries and to the world. As part of their religious practice, Rissho Kosei-kai members render altruistic services through activities dedicated to peace. These include supporting the World Conference of Religions for Peace.

The World Conference of Religions for Peace is a multireligious congress that first convened in Kyoto, Japan, in 1970. Religions for Peace invites world religious leaders to take part in congresses to share their goals and contribute to world peace in the spirit of interreligious cooperation. Religions for Peace’s membership includes religious leaders from the Baha’i; Mahayana and Therevada Buddhism; Orthodox, Protestant, and Roman Catholic Christianity; Confucianism; Hinduism; indigenous faiths; Islam; Jainism; Reform Judaism; New Religions; Shinto; Sikhism; and Zoroastrianism.

In 1973, Religions for Peace was granted Consultative Status, Category II, by the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Founder Niwano delivers opening address at the 6th WCRP The sixth assembly was held November 1994 at the Vatican and Riva del Garda, Italy. To further its efforts as an action-oriented organization, Religions for Peace established six commissions in the following fields during this assembly: Conflict Transformation and Reconciliation;  Human Rights and Responsibilities; The Child and the Family; Development and Ecology; Disarmament and Security; and Peace Education.

Rev. Nikkyo Niwano, founder of Rissho Kosei-kai, delivered the opening address and joyfully welcomed Pope John Paul II as the first papal participant in a World Assembly of Religions for Peace. Since then, the congress has been actively involved in conflict resolution processes in civil wars in the former Yugoslavia, Sierra Leone, and so on.

In November 1999, the seventh assembly of Religions for Peace was held in Amman, Jordan, and in August 2006 the eighth assembly was held in Kyoto, Japan. On July 2-3, 2008, the Japanese Committee of Religions for Peace convened the World Religious Leaders Summit for Peace in Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan, with the cooperation of its international body, Religions for Peace.

The conference was held shortly before the summit of the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations (G8) held July 7-9 by Lake Toya near Sapporo. The participants discussed pressing global issues and worked out a statement to the G8 leaders. The religious summit was attended by about 300 religious leaders, including 100 delegates from 23 countries and regions. It was one in a series of multireligious conferences preceding annual G8 summits. For further information about the WCRP, visit http://www.religionsforpeace.org/.