by Kent Johnson, J.D., Senior Corporate Advisor, Religious Freedom & Business Foundation
I was in Washington, DC, at the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation’s Dare to Overcome conference when the news of the May 24th school shooting in Uvalde hit on participants’ phones. We interrupted our proceedings for Father Greg McBrayer of American Airlines to offer a poignant, powerful, heartfelt prayer.
I wish you were there. Devout Baha’i, Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Scientologists, Sikhs, “None’s” and others, were all together – physically – at The Catholic University of America, each praying, meditating and imploring the divine in his or her own way… each one coming alongside those stricken in Uvalde, and alongside each other.
I was left with a renewed hope in the possibility of civility in our time.
At the conference, interfaith panels at the Dare to Overcome conference wrestled with questions like:
1. How can diverse faith perspectives help companies promote good in the world?
2. As Artificial Intelligence increasingly transforms the way we work and interact, how should companies actively engage the voices of people of faith to help guide those who shape the algorithms that determine what constitutes legitimate “news,” and inform hiring decisions, and police the workplace?
3. How can we promote authenticity and connection in a world that today seems to drive people into isolated groups, each disdaining the other?
4. What does it mean to be truly “Human?”
It was a profoundly welcoming and hopeful gathering. No one was pressed to compromise his or her faith or belief; yet we came together in common purpose: to affirm the dignity of all human beings and to promote everyone’s freedom of religion and belief – freedom both of expression and practice – in the workplace. We connected over ideas, art, music and meals.
The personal testimonials were stirring. We heard of the work of diverse faith-oriented employee resource groups at Dell Technologies who collaborated and engaged others (with help from the A21 organization) to help end the dehumanizing scourge of human trafficking. We reveled as we saw evidence from Intel Corporation of the sincere, deep friendships that’ve been forged among Christians, Muslims, Jews, atheists, Hindus and others. We celebrated with American Airlines, this year’s most faith-friendly corporate workplace among the 500 largest in America… a company that truly “walks the talk.” Leaders from PayPal, Texas Instruments, Equinix, Target, Tyson Foods, AIG, Alphabet/Google, American Express, the Ford Motor Company, Intuit, Ameriprise Financial Group, Cigna, Meta Platforms (Facebook), Accenture, TeaPak, SAP and many others came to add their hearty support.
My point is this: There’s hope. Hatred and division need not prevail. Companies need not be driven solely by the pursuit of profits to the detriment of civility. We need not allow media and other cultural forces to shove us into mutually distrustful and fearful camps. Companies like these are producing “products” that are even more positively impactful than the ones that you associate with them. They’re producing cultural civility and warmth that embraces all people, no matter their religion, belief, race, language, orientation, or anything else. They’re treating people like people.