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Monthly Archives: October 2019

Religious Freedom Helps Tackle Climate Change

30 Oct, 2019

By Brian J. Grim

Religious freedom sets people free to make faith-based arguments about the environment and climate change. And this includes from within groups that are often seen as not veery warm to human-caused climate change arguments.

For example, “When evangelical environmentalists talk about climate change, they don’t stick to sea level rise projections and the carbon emissions associated with red meat,” says Olivia Goldhill. “Kyle Meyaard-Schaap, national organizer and spokesperson at Young Evangelicals for Climate Action (YECA), also points to the psalms, and the Old and New Testaments. These texts emphasize how God created and loves the Earth, and wants humans to love it too. So for Meyaard-Schaap, choosing to care for the planet—and fight climate change—is simply following his God’s wishes.”

Pope Francis is in many ways the most prominent religious voice for addressing climate changes. This past September, he stated, ““And God saw that it was good” (Gen 1:25). God’s gaze, at the beginning of the Bible, rests lovingly on his creation. From habitable land to life-giving waters, from fruit-bearing trees to animals that share our common home, everything is dear in the eyes of God, who offers creation to men and women as a precious gift to be preserved. Tragically, the human response to this gift has been marked by sin, selfishness and a greedy desire to possess and exploit. Egoism and self-interest have turned creation, a place of encounter and sharing, into an arena of competition and conflict. In this way, the environment itself is endangered: something good in God’s eyes has become something to be exploited in human hands.” (Message of the Holy Father Francis for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation,1st September 2019)

In fact, almost every faith tradition speaks about the importance of taking care of Creation. It’s not just a fad, but a sacred duty. If religions had no freedom to have a voice, there would be far less thinking and arguably doing on how to address climate change.

Religious Statements on Climate Change

Most religious communities have released statements on Climate Change and the need to care for Creation. The following list (put together by Interfaith Power & Light) demonstrates the unity within the religious community on these important issues.

Baha’i

Seizing the Opportunity: Redefining the Challenge of Climate Change

A statement of the Bahá’í International Community to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, France

Buddhist

The Time to Act is Now – A Buddhist Declaration on Climate Change

A Western Soto Zen Buddhist Statement on the Climate Crisis

Christian

Joint Statement on Environment by Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Sept 1, 2017

17 Anglican Bishops across six continents issue urgent call for climate justice

Anglican Church of Canada, The Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada – A Pastoral Message on Climate Change

Baptist – A Southern Baptist Declaration on the Environment and Climate Change

Catholic – U.S. Catholic Bishops’ Statement on Climate Change

Catholic – Vatican on Climate Change

Catholic – Pope Mass: Protecting Creation a Christian responsibility

Catholic – Frequently Asked Questions on the Papal Encyclical

Church of the Brethren – Statement on Global Climate Change

Eastern Orthod0x – Statement on the Environment

Episcopal Church – Sustaining Hope in the Face of Climate Change

Evangelical Climate Initiative – Call to Action

Evangelical Lutheran Church of America – Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope, and Justice

Evangelical Lutheran Church of America – Issue Paper: Global Warming and Climate Change

Mennonite – Creation Care Network

Presbyterian Church USA – U.S. Energy Policy and Global Warming

Quaker – Earthcare Mission Program

United Church of Christ – A Resolution on Climate Change

United Methodist Church – Church Statement on Climate Change

Hindu

Hindu Declaration on Climate Change

Interfaith

Interfaith Declaration on Climate Change (IDCC)

Jewish

The (Yale) Forum on Religion and Ecology – Judaism and Climate Change

Muslim

Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change

Sikh

Sikh Statement on Climate Change

Unitarian Universalist

Unitarian Universalist – Threat of Global Warming/Climate Change

Additional Statements

The (Yale) Forum on Religion and Ecology

If we’ve done this much in the first 5 years, imagine our next 5!

26 Oct, 2019

The Religious Freedom & Business Foundation (RFBF) – celebrating 5 years – was founded in 2014 by Dr. Brian Grim. Prior to that, there was no organization devoted to educating the global business community about how religious freedom is good for business and inviting them to join forces with government and non-government organizations in promoting respect for freedom of religion or belief (FoRB). RFBF has single-handedly created this new field and has provided practical business tools to advance the cause.

RFBF brings a powerful new hope in today’s increasingly polarizing environments by engaging diverse people and businesses in the common cause of freedom of belief and conscience – for all – and doing this in ways that demonstrably strengthen harmony, economic flourishing and personal fulfillment.

The Next 5 Years – Catalyzing Global Change describes the unique catalytic approach that RFBF will apply in its next 5 years to fulfill its extraordinary mission.


Leadership: Shifting the Paradigm

5 years ago, none of this existed; 5 years from now it’ll be the norm

RFBF’s unique catalytic approach multiplies its mission impact. Rather than building up an institution, we lead powerful networks (p.3 of the brochure) of freedom stakeholders, shifting the paradigm of how freedom of religion and belief is advanced worldwide. Our work is advanced by a simple and powerful truth: religious freedom is good for business and business is good for religious freedom. We show this truth through our original research (p.4) and practical resources (p.5 and p.8) that help businesses maximize positive impact of having faith friendly workplaces on employees’ lives and company profitability. RFBF further incentivizes businesses to join the movement through our awards program (p.6).

A direct result of RFBF’s groundbreaking work was the call at the start of the 2019 United Nations General Assembly for a coalition of businesses to protect religious freedom. Two days after this call, RFBF cohosted the first international religious freedom coalition business roundtable together with the US State Department and Berkshire Capital CEO H. Bruce McEver (one of our award-winners) at the Harvard Club of New York on the margins of the UN General Assembly. Animated by a cause that transcends politics, the roundtable provided excellent opportunities for business leaders to share best practices with religious freedom in their workplaces. A core RFBF objective for the next 5 years is to enable and make permanent more such roundtables throughout the world (see p.8-10 for profiles of three award winners at the NYC Business Roundtable).

“We all need to answer to this call. International actors, states, religious leaders, civil society representatives, business leaders. The global issue requires a truly global response.” — Forbes 9/23/2019

Bahrain to set up Middle East’s first International Religious Freedom (IRF) Business Roundtable

15 Oct, 2019

Religious Freedom & Business Foundation and King Hamad Global Centre for Peaceful Coexistence Sign MoU to Advance Religious Freedom

Washington, DC, 27 September 2019 – This week, the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation (RFBF) and the Bahrain-based King Hamad Global Centre for Peaceful Coexistence (KHGC) signed a memorandum of understanding to promote and advance religious freedom, economic development, and peace and prosperity around the world.

The announcement follows the U.N. General Assembly’s “Global Call to Protect Religious Freedom” session, convened by U.S. President Donald Trump and U.N. Secretary General António Guterres, and the U.S. Administration’s recent launch of the International Religious Freedom Alliance, the first international body of its kind focused on promoting religious freedom.

Bahrain’s IRF Business Roundtable initiative was also inspired by the first-ever Business Roundtable on international religious freedom held this September 25th at the Harvard Club in New York City, cohosted by Ambassador Sam Brownback, the U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, with Dr. Brian Grim, President of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation ,and Mr. Bruce McEver, Founder and Chairman of Berkshire Global Advisors.

The aim of the new initiative is to form to a coalition of businesses for the protection of religious freedom, specifically encouraging the private sector to protect people of all faiths and beliefs in the workplace.

“Bahrain draws from a rich history of people of all faiths coming together in the marketplace,” said Dr. Grim, RFBF President. “As such, we are honored to work with the King Hamad Global Centre for Peaceful Coexistence as our first Business Roundtable partner in the Middle East region.”

As part of the MoU, the KHGC has committed to establishing both a regional multi-faith International Religious Freedom (IRF) Business Roundtable and a country-level roundtable in Bahrain. The gatherings will bring together business leaders to address regional and global challenges and opportunities in advancing religious freedom in the workplace and marketplace.

“In the Middle East, we have seen firsthand how religion can be at the heart of conflict,” said HE Dr. Shaikh Khalid bin Khalifa Al Khalifa, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the KHGC. “However, in Bahrain, we have also been lucky to turn religious differences into learning opportunities for nurturing peaceful societies. Through the IRF Business Roundtables, we are excited to share our experiences with the rest of the world.” 

Principles undergirding the agreement include:

(1) Affirmatively agree with Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which provides a common point of departure and a common understanding from which to build.

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

(2) Commit to condemn and reject any religious violence or violence targeting civilians.

(3) Support and promote the Corporate Pledge on Religious Diversity and Inclusion.

(4) Be accountable to fulfill the Corporate Pledge by completing the Corporate Religious Diversity Assessment (CRDAtool.org).

Grim Speaks at China Business Forum in Las Vegas

14 Oct, 2019

28-29 October 2019, Las Vegas, USA

Amid the ongoing Trade War between the U.S. and China, and with a backdrop of the Trade War taking on a human rights dimension, RFBF President Brian Grim will speak at the annual Horasis China Meeting in Las Vegas, USA, over 28-29 October, 2019 – co-hosted by the Las Vegas Sands CorporationUnited States Chamber of Commerce and the China Federation of Industrial Economics.

See full program: Horasis China Meeting 2019 – programme

More than 400 participants from business and government will join an intense two-day programme designed to cover opportunities and challenges that Chinese firms need to identify and address successfully as they engage globally. Furthermore, and against the backdrop of the current frictions between China and the U.S., the Horasis China Meeting will play a proactive and positive role in the trade and investment relations between both countries. Some of the functions will be attended by high-ranking U.S. and Chinese politicians and other public figures.

The co-chairs are: Craig Allen, President, US-China Business Council, USA | Angelica Anton, Founding Partner, Silk Ventures, United Kingdom | Elaine Dezenski, Founder and Managing Partner, LumiRisk LLC, USA | Victor Gao, Vice President, Center for China & Globalization, China | Ben Goertzel, Chief Executive Officer, SingularityNET, Hong Kong SAR | Maggie Chan Jones, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Tenshey, USA | Liu Qizhong, Vice Chairman, Zhenhua Heavy Industries, China | Ma Xuyao, General Manager, Shaanxi Fast Auto Drive Group Co., China | Tan Xu, President, China | Telecom (Americas) Corporation, USA | Wang Congxiao, Vice Chairman, China | Triumph International Engineering Co., China | Wang Shuguang, Vice Chairman, BROAD Group, China | Michele Wucker, Founder, Gray Rhino & Company, USA | Zhang Xingsheng, Founding Partner, Datong Fund, China | Zhi Peng, Secretary General, Tsinghua Asset Management Group, China | Zhang Jianwei, Vice Chairman, Sinotrans, China | Guan Jianzhong, Chairman, Dagong Global Credit Rating, China.

The Horasis China Meeting is a comprehensive platform for the CEOs of the world’s leading companies to actively engage with China and its leaders from both business and government. The event is the foremost annual gathering of Chinese business leaders and their global counterparts. The location of the meeting rotates annually, and has been held in Geneva/Switzerland (2005, 2006), Frankfurt/Germany (2007), Barcelona/Spain (2008), Lisbon/Portugal (2009), City of Luxembourg/Luxembourg (2010), Valencia/Spain (2011), Riga/Latvia (2012), The Hague/The Netherlands (2013), Lake Como/Italy (2014), Cascais/Portugal (2015), Interlaken/Switzerland (2016), Sheffield/United Kingdom (2017) and Kyiv, Ukraine (2018). With this meeting, Horasis aims to present a systemic view of activities affecting the drivers of China’s economic success and how Chinese businesses interact globally within other nations.

Horasis: The Global Visions Community is an independent international organization committed to inspiring our future. In addition to the Horasis China Meeting, Horasis hosts the Horasis Global Meeting as well as other regional events focusing on India and South East Asia.

Trade War now has a human rights dimension

 

RFBF Research Basis for Entire International Conference

11 Oct, 2019

Save the Date October 30th – New York City 6th Annual International Conference on Ethnic and Religious Conflict Resolution and Peacebuilding focuses on Religious Freedom & Business Foundation’s research.

Researchers, analysts, and policy makers have been trying to find out whether there is a correlation between violent conflict and economic growth. A new study shows evidence of global economic impact of violence and conflict and provides an empirical basis for understanding the economic benefits resulting from improvements in peace (Institute for Economics and Peace, 2018). Other research findings suggest that religious freedom is linked to economic growth (Grim, Clark & Snyder, 2014).

Although these research findings have initiated a conversation about the relationship between conflict, peace and global economy, there is an urgent need for a study aimed at understanding the relationship between ethno-religious conflict and economic growth in different countries and at the global level.

The United Nations, member states and the business community are hoping to achieve peace and prosperity for all peoples and the planet through the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by the year 2030. Understanding the ways in which ethno-religious conflict or violence is related to economic development in different countries around the world will help to equip government and business leaders to act effectively and efficiently.

In addition, ethno-religious conflict or violence is a historical phenomenon that has the most devastating and horrific impact on humans and the environment. The devastation and loss caused by ethno-religious conflict or violence are currently being experienced in different parts of the world. The International Center for Ethno-Religious Mediation believes that knowing the economic cost of ethno-religious conflict or violence and the ways in which ethno-religious conflict is related to economic growth will help policy makers and other stakeholders, especially the business community, design proactive solutions to address the problem.

The 6th Annual International Conference on Ethnic and Religious Conflict Resolution and Peacebuilding therefore intends to provide a pluri-disciplinary platform to explore whether there is a correlation between ethno-religious conflict or violence and economic growth as well as the direction of the correlation.

University scholars, researchers, policy makers, think tanks, and the business community are invited to submit abstracts and / or full papers of their quantitative, qualitative, or mixed methods research that directly or indirectly address any of the following questions:

Is there a correlation between ethno-religious conflict and economic growth? If yes, then:

  1. A) Does an increase in ethno-religious conflict or violence result in a decrease in economic growth?
  2. B) Does an increase in ethno-religious conflict or violence result in an increase in economic growth?
  3. C) Does a decrease in ethno-religious conflict or violence result in a decrease in economic growth?
  4. D) Does an increase in economic growth result in a decrease in ethno-religious conflict or violence?
  5. E) Does an increase in economic growth result in an increase in ethno-religious conflict or violence?
  6. F) Does a decrease in economic growth result in a decrease in ethno-religious conflict or violence?

 

Trade War now has a human rights dimension

8 Oct, 2019

The United States is imposing visa restrictions on the Chinese government and Communist Party officials who are believed to be responsible for the detention or abuse of the Uighurs — Muslim ethnic minorities in Xinjiang, China. … China Responds. Read the details:

U.S. Department of State Imposes Visa Restrictions on Chinese Officials for Repression in Xinjiang

October 8, 2019, Press Statement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

The Chinese government has instituted a highly repressive campaign against Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and other members of Muslim minority groups in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (Xinjiang) that includes mass detentions in internment camps; pervasive, high-tech surveillance; draconian controls on expressions of cultural and religious identities; and coercion of individuals to return from abroad to an often perilous fate in China.  Today, I am announcing:

  • — Visa restrictions on Chinese government and Communist Party officials who are believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, the detention or abuse of Uighurs, Kazakhs, or other members of Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang, China.  Family members of such persons may also be subject to these restrictions.
  • — These visa restrictions complement yesterday’s announcement by the Department of Commerce regarding the imposition of export restrictions on U.S. products exported to 28 entities, including elements of the Public Security Bureau and commercial companies in Xinjiang, involved in China’s campaign of surveillance, detention, and repression.

The United States calls on the People’s Republic of China to immediately end its campaign of repression in Xinjiang, release all those arbitrarily detained, and cease efforts to coerce members of Chinese Muslim minority groups residing abroad to return to China to face an uncertain fate.  The protection of human rights is of fundamental importance, and all countries must respect their human rights obligations and commitments.  The United States will continue to review its authorities to respond to these abuses.

China ‘strongly urges’ US to remove sanctions and stop accusing it of human rights violations

China’s response, reported by CNBC, Oct. 8

  • — “We strongly urge the U.S. to immediately stop making irresponsible remarks on the issue of Xinjiang” and to “stop interfering” in “China’s internal affairs, and remove relevant Chinese entities from the list of entities as soon as possible,” a spokesperson from the Ministry of Commerce said.
  • — The U.S. blacklisted a slew of Chinese companies due to alleged human rights violations against Muslim minorities in China’s far-western region of Xinjiang.
  • — “China will also take all necessary measures to resolutely safeguard China’s own interests,” the spokesperson said.

Templeton Religion Trust grant helps expand RFBF Asia engagement

3 Oct, 2019


“It appears that God’s creative method is movement, change, continuing search, ongoing inquiry. Those who seek are rewarded. Those who are sure they already have the answers gradually become obsolete.”  — Sir John Templeton, The Humble Approach

RELIGIOUS PLURALISM

How can we transform religious diversity from a troublesome fact we’re stuck with and simply have to learn to tolerate into a positive asset?

In religions, as in science and the economy, progress is possible, but under what conditions? Sir John Templeton believed that a key factor is cooperative, constructive engagement across deep religious differences. Religions are often seen as competing for people’s hearts and minds, and to some extent this is true. But can religions engage one another cooperatively and constructively? What if religions could bridge the gap between work and purpose? How can we leverage religious diversity to make the world a better place? What are the conditions under which this can happen, and what are the most effective ways of fostering cooperative engagement across deep differences?


A grant from the Templeton Religion Trust (TRT) to the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation (RFBF) for its Global Religious Freedom & Business Awards Initiative enables RFBF to increase its engagement on Covenantal Pluralism in our world’s most religiously diverse region — Asia.

Sir John Templeton said, “The wise investor recognizes that success is a process of continually seeking answers to new questions.” This project connects to Sir John’s advice because it is based on the humble search for how the thoughts and actions of business leaders can be instrumental in increasing knowledge and human progress in the area of religious freedom. It begins with a problem – restrictions on freedom of religion and belief are high and rising. Rather than beginning with a solution, this project presupposes that the spark of Divine understanding is present in the lives and thoughts of top business leaders who hold solutions to the problem that heretofore have not been articulated or actualized. We seek to identify the leaders that have these ideas and give them both the opportunity and means to let their inspirational ideas be heard.

Sir John Templeton emphasized that “Self-improvement comes mainly from trying to help others.” These Awards honor business people who are doing exactly that. By honoring them, we are helping their example, like Sir John’s own example, inspire others to make the world a better place. Also, as Sir John said, “The person who really wants to do something finds a way; the other finds an excuse.” It is easy to find excuses for not overcoming the religious tensions that divide people. But these Awards show that it is entirely possible.

Sir John placed a strong value on gratitude. In his words, “An attitude of gratitude creates blessings.” The consistent and common characteristic of the Award recipients is that they receive the Award with gratitude, and then are all the more encouraged to continue to work for the good of others.

Indeed, we are drawing attention to business leaders who are performing better than their peers, largely because they are innovative in solving social problems using business know-how. As Sir John said, “If you want to have a better performance than the crowd, you must do things differently from the crowd.”


Thanks to a previous TRT grant in 2016, RFBF has been successful in enlisting these innovative business leaders as a powerful new global ally for advancing freedom of religion and belief (FoRB). The 2016 grant ensured the success of RFBF’s inaugural Global Business & Interfaith Peace Awards at the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games. The Awards enabled RFBF to develop a network of high-level relationships with business leaders and international organizations including cooperation with the UN Global Compact, the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative.

Based on its global business network, RFBF helped the US State Department launch the first-ever Business Roundtable on International religious Freedom on September 25, 2019, at the Harvard Club in New York City. The roundtable was the first response to a call made jointly by UN Secretary General Guterres and US President Donald Trump for business to “protect people of all faiths in the workplace.”

The follow-up Business Roundtable was co-hosted by US Ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback, together with with Dr. Brian Grim, President of the Religious Freedom and Business Foundation, and Mr. Bruce McEver, Founder and Chairman of Berkshire Global Advisors and The Foundation for religious Literacy.  The event featured a discussion on the relationship between religious freedom and economic prosperity.

Brian Grim – slides AMB Brownback Business Roundtable Sept 25 2019

Ambassador Brownback and Chief Economist Sharon Brown-Hruska sat down with business leaders, government officials and civil society representatives to discuss ways to incentivize countries to ease restrictions on religious freedom in hopes to realize their economic aspirations.

Bruce McEver, a co-host, was a 2016 Global Business & Interfaith Peace Award winner. Other award winning business leaders present at the Business Roundtable included Y.W. Junardy of Indonesia and Kathy Ireland, founder of Kathy Ireland Worldwide. Former US religious freedom envoy Suzan Johnson Cook was also present. She was winner of the foundation’s 2019 Dare to Overcome Religious Freedom Film Competition.

This Business Roundtable is one metric among many of the Global Religious Freedom & Business Awards Initiative’s impact.


The new TRT grant will allow such impact multiply, especially in Asia, home to three consecutive Awards, which we hold in tandem with the Paralympic Games (Rio 2016, Korea 2018, Tokyo. Aug. 23-25, 2020, Beijing 2022).

This project’s main activities are: an international business symposium at which the Awards are presented; a job fair for people with disabilities; a media campaign; and a film festival. Outputs: (1) a greatly expanded global network of businesses committed to FoRB, and (2) a media campaign showing how FoRB contributes to socio-economic and integral human development and how business contributes to FoRB.

Primary audiences: companies, CEOs and top managers in large companies. Secondary audiences: government officials, religious leaders, journalists, and the religious freedom advocacy community. The impact will include an expanded global network of top business leaders and corporations supporting FoRB; a changed public narrative that recognizes that FoRB is good for all, including helping governments of countries like China see the socio-economic benefits of FoRB.


ABOUT TEMPLETON RELIGION TRUST

Templeton Religion Trust (TRT) is a global charitable trust chartered by Sir John Templeton in 1984, with headquarters in Nassau, The Bahamas, where Sir John lived until his death in 2008. TRT has been active since 2012 and supports projects and the dissemination of results from projects seeking to enrich the conversation about religion via three broad initiatives:

  • – Improving the methods of inquiry into the existence and nature of spiritual realities.
  • – Bringing about and enhancing the “conditions of possibility” of cooperative, constructive engagement (aka “Covenantal Pluralism”) in the context of religion.
  • – Establishing the fact and improving our understanding of the underlying dynamics of the often overlooked or unforeseen benefits of religious faith and practice at its best.

TRT’s aim is to improve the well-being of individuals and societies through spiritual growth and an ever-improving understanding of spiritual realities and spiritual information.

Grim travels to Korea and Japan for two major peace initiatives

3 Oct, 2019

RFBF President Brian Grim will travel to Korea October 8-10 to participate in the Third International Conference on the Role of Christians for Peace on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia (see his interview with the Catholic Times of Korea below).

See Conference summary: Press Release 3rd International Conference CINAP

The conference is organized by the Institute for Peace and Cooperation in Northeast Asia, located on the border between North and South Korea. Grim will also visit the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) at the Joint Security Area (JSA, often referred to as the Truce Village or Panmunjom), the only portion of the DMZ where North and South Korean forces stand face-to-face.

Grim will then be in Japan in November to continue preparations for a major peace event called Dare to Overcome to be held on the eve of the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo. This is a follow-up to the business and peace festival held last March 2018 in Seoul on the eve of the PyeongChang Paralympics. Grim states:

“We are especially interested in business leaders from Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and other faiths participating in the event, because when business people, motivated by their faith, engage in peace making, they also bring many powerful resources to the task. There has been a movement to build bridges with North Korea through business, and I believe the same efforts will also be beneficial in build better relations between Korea and Japan.”


Catholic Times Interview Dr. Brian Grim (RFBF)

Question 1. In South Korea, Catholics and Protestants statistically count between 14 and 15 million people, making up a large part of the population. I heard Dr. Grim have been to Korea many times. Do you think that Korean Christians are doing their part in improving relations between Korea and Japan or in establishing peace on the Korean Peninsula?

Without doubt, Korean Christians are active in both improving relations between Korea and Japan as well as in working for peace on the Korean Peninsula. They have been propelled forward by the clear call of Jesus within the Beatitudes, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9). The Third International Conference on the Role of Christian for Peace on Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia, is an excellent example not only of Christian involvement, but increasing Christian involvement in regional peacemaking.

Question 2. The four major powers around the Korean Peninsula are generally called the United States, China, Russia and Japan.

The United States, China, and Russia have a significant Influence on peace on the Korean Peninsula, but many people think Japan has no less Influence. Japan colonized the Korean Peninsula for 35 years, and both countries are still in conflict. What is the unique status of Japan among the four great powers around the Korean peninsula?

I do a lot of work in Japan and am there frequently. One of the voices in Japan for peace and reconciliation is the former Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama. Last year at my foundation’s biannual Global Business and Peace Forum, he spoke eloquently of the importance of being able to apologize for past wrongs. Of course, his view is not as popular in Japan as it is in Korea and China, but it is an example of the potential that a humble approach has for overcoming pains of the past. You can see his comments below.

Question 3. Generally speaking, the declaration of the Korean War and the peace agreement are necessary to realize peace on the Korean Peninsula. As a scholar studying religious freedom around the world, do you think that North Korea, which lacks religious freedom, and South Korea that enjoys religious freedom can achieve the declaration of Korean War and a peace agreement?

My father was a GI based in Cheorwon 철원군 during the war (see picture below). In fact, I exist because of the war – my father met my mother when he was stationed in Georgia for training before he deployed to the front. He is now 86, and looks back on those days with pride in helping South Korea maintain independence and freedom, including religious freedom. He would sometimes go to a Korean church near his base. Of course, Christianity was strongest in North Korea before the war. So, there is a sort of unnatural religious situation today that I believe will be corrected when peace comes. Indeed, Christianity is even part of the ruling Kim family’s background. So, we have a prayer for hope.

Question 4. The North Korea’s nuclear weapons are the key of the Korean Peninsula issue. The negotiations between North Korea and the United States are also a tug of war over the North Korea’s nuclear weapons. What do you think are the preconditions for resolving the North Korea’s nuclear weapons issue?

Nuclear weapons provide North Korea with a potent defense against an external military takeover. The regime will not give them up until there is peace that guarantees the regime’s longevity. I believe that one step that the North could take to show that they are a trusted partner for peace would be to grant true religious freedom.

Question 5. Recently, it was reported that Pope Francis can visit North Korea. Do you think there is a possibility of the pope’s visit to North Korea? What changes can we expect from North Korea if it happens? If there is no possibility of the event, what do you think is the reason?

The question that Pope Francis is weighing is whether a visit to the North would do more harm than good. It could and would be used as a propaganda victory for the regime. Can he move them towards peace in concrete terms while there? I tend to think yes, if he has concrete demands that must be met before he arrives, such as opening ten historic Christian churches in North Korea and releasing Christians from prisons. North Korea responds to negotiation, so why not give it a try?

Question 6. South and North Korea have been living apart for 74 years. Many people say that the German religious community contributed greatly to German reunification. What do you think is the main point in German reunification to achieve Korean reunification?

I walked through the Berlin Wall the day that it collapsed back on November 9, 1989. The current Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, is the daughter of a Lutheran pastor who served in East Germany. Therein lies a big difference. Despite East Germany being communist, they still allowed religion to function, albeit under tight government control. Because of that, there were natural bridges of faith that could be reconstructed. In North Korea, there is no such parallel. So, the model would be different. One avenue forward can be high level engagement such as a visit by Pope Francis to fight for the reestablishment of an open religious community in the North.

Question 7. In many parts of the world, there are various examples of conflict between the same country or people. I would appreciate if you could pick a representative example that can be a model in resolving the disputes on the Korean Peninsula and explain why.

Cyprus is another country divided into the Republic of Cyprus, which is mainly Christian Orthodox, and a northern region controlled by Muslim Turkish sympathizers. The division is largely sustained because of Turkey’s support for the breakaway region. Similarly, North Korea is significantly supported by China and to a lesser extent Russia. Of course, the South has the U.S. as an ally. Thus, just like in Cyprus, a lasting solution can only come when the powers external to the country itself also are fully committed to achieving a unified peace.

Question 8. Please tell what you want to ask the Korean church.

I would like the Korean church to join my foundation in a major peace event on the eve of the next Paralympic Games in Tokyo on 23-25 August 2020, called Dare to Overcome.

This is a follow-up to the peace festival we held last March 2018 in Seoul on the eve of the PyeongChang Paralympics.  We are especially interested in business leaders from Christian and Buddhist faiths participating in the event, because when business people, motivated by their faith, engage in peace making, they also bring many powerful resources to the task. There has been a movement to build bridges with North Korea through business, and I believe the same efforts will also be beneficial in build better relations between Korea and Japan.

Will Pope Francis visit North Korea as Japan-Korea tensions rise?

3 Oct, 2019

Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Japan this November 23-26. One of his main messages will be “to dismantle nuclear weapons” as he visits Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where atomic bombs were dropped to end World War II in the Pacific.

There is a last minute push for Pope Francis to possibly meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the DMZ after his visit to Japan.

His Asia visit is against a backdrop of a new invigorated nuclear arms race. The United States and Russia are abandoning the INF (Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces) Treaty. China is engaged in a massive buildup of military power, including advancing in delivering nuclear weapons across the planet. All this is against a background of North Korea’s nuclear weapons development. Elsewhere, tensions between India and Pakistan have a nuclear dimension since both state possess nuclear weapons.

South Korean President Moon – a practicing Catholic – previously urged Pope Francis to add North Korea to his Asia trip. While a visit is unlikely, there is always an outside chance that on his return flight from Japan to Italy that he could make an unexpected stop in North Korea.

Besides the nuclear issue, relations between allies South Korea and Japan have deteriorated recently in the wake of So. Korea’s Supreme Court order to a Japanese firm to compensate WWII workers in a forced labour lawsuit, a decision Japan is appealing to an international court.

As these tensions rise, RFBF President Brian Grim will travel to Korea to participate October 8-10 in the Third International Conference on the Role of Christians for Peace on Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia (see his interview with the Catholic Times of Korea). Grim will then be in Japan to continue preparations for a major peace event on the eve of the next Paralympic Games in Tokyo on 23-25 August 2020, called Dare to Overcome.

This is a follow-up to the business and peace festival held last March 2018 in Seoul on the eve of the PyeongChang Paralympics. Grim states, “We are especially interested in business leaders from Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and other faiths participating in the event, because when business people, motivated by their faith, engage in peace making, they also bring many powerful resources to the task. There has been a movement to build bridges with North Korea through business, and I believe the same efforts will also be beneficial in build better relations between Korea and Japan.”