“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
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.
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 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.