If things were normal, this month would have seen the Olympics wrap up and the Paralympics kick off in Tokyo. Of course things aren’t normal. That has forced the postponement of many things, not just sports, but also events such as our biannual Global Business & Interfaith Peace Awards held in tandem with the Paralympic Games.
At the same time, the coronavirus shutdowns have opened opportunities for new voices to change the tone of our civil discourse at home and abroad.
Faith and core beliefs are taboo discussion topics in many workplaces. But that is changing. A gathering wind of freedom is gaining strength. It’s accelerating in this time when employers are pressed – perhaps as never before – to find new ways to inspire and motivate their people to collaborate, create and execute business, often while working remotely.
During the shutdown the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation has been hosting a series of calls with Fortune 500 companies in which they share how they’re becoming more faith-and-belief friendly. They are doing this in ways that not only allow each employee to be authentic to his/her own faith, but builds a workplace community where people’s various faiths and beliefs are welcome and viewed as a source of strength.
At Dell Technologies, the company’s corporate vision aligns with and empowers the Interfaith ERG in their commitment to drive awareness, promote understanding, and foster camaraderie.
In today’s call, we’ll be hearing from Joe Pacheco, Marketing Director & Interfaith Business Innovation Co-Lead, and Steve Helms, Global Alliance Sales Manager & Interfaith Business Innovation Co-Lead, on how including faith is part of Dell Technologies’ overall diversity & inclusion commitment as carried out through Dell Technologies Corporate Resource Groups.
It is no coincidence that the speakers focus on business innovation as part of the interfaith initiative, as powerfully stated at our February 2020 Faith@Work Conference by DELL’s first entrepreneur-in-residence, Ingrid Vanderveldt, now CEO of Empower a Billion Women.
Speaking of Empowering Women
I couldn’t have be more thrilled with the opportunity to work with Shirin Taber and the daring and talented network of media advocates working with Empower Women Media. They are on the cutting edge of advocacy for both women’s empowerment and freedom of religion or belief – the two go hand-in-hand!
We gathered to honor women who artfully and compellingly explore through short films the impact of freedom of religion or belief in their workplaces and communities.
This tremendous film initiative is in support of Article 18 of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
“Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his/her religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his/he religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”
The work of these filmmakers couldn’t be more timely. Social science research – which I’ve been involved with – projects that our planet will have 2.3 billion more religiously affiliated people by 2050 compared with just 0.1 billion more religiously unaffiliated people. That’s a 23-to-1 ratio in favor of religious growth.
Research also shows that this religious growth can be good for the workplace and the bottom lines of businesses – as long as freedom of religion and belief is respected. In such countries, innovative strength is more than twice as high as in countries where governments and societies don’t respect freedom of religion or belief. So, freedom to believe – or not believe – is good for business.
But the data on religious freedom are very concerning. Annual studies find that restrictions on religion and belief are high in 40% of countries. But because some of these countries (like China) are very populous, some 5.9 billion people (or nearly 80% of the world’s population) live in countries with a high restrictions on religion and belief coming from two main sources: the actions and policies of governments, and the social hostilities involving religion coming from people and groups in societies.
Since 2009, the number of people living in countries with high religious restrictions and hostilities has increased from 4.8 to 5.9 billion people – that’s an increase of 1.1 billion more people living in countries where freedom of religion or belief is under duress.
Because the challenges are great, we need new tools to make the case for religious freedom. The films you’ll see today make the pragmatic case that religious freedom is good for societies, including good for the marketplace and workplace.
Finally – drum roll please – I’m pleased to announce that the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation has awarded each of our two 2020 Grand Prize winners – both of whom you’ll meet in a few minutes – a $5,000 cash prize and a TRIP to Tokyo to present their short films at the 2021 Global Business & Interfaith Peace Awards in tandem with Olympic and Paralympic Games – assuming they will be held next summer. Their films will also be screened at the Dare to Overcome Global Business & Peace Festival in support of the Paralympic Movement and people with disabilities.
Let me conclude with a short film produced by Sharon Angel, who will also be on hand in Tokyo to share the full-length version of the music video she has produced for Dare to Overcome.
All these business and media initiatives are new voices making societies more civil.