Author Archives: Brian Grimm

Three Innovations Set to Soar in 2017

18 Dec, 2016

… the Year of Religious Freedom & Business

As Mark Twain, Yogi Berra and numerous others have reportedly said, “It’s difficult to make predictions, especially about the future.”

With his quip firmly in mind, three innovations in religious freedom seem likely to take off in 2017. This is thanks to religious freedom’s contribution to a good climate for business, making 2017 what I believe will be the year of religious freedom & business.

1. Muslims Making Progress

News headlines miss significant Muslim initiatives supporting interfaith understanding, religious freedom and peace (a) at the grass roots level, (b) by Muslim business leaders, and (c) by highly respected Islamic clergy.

Grass Roots: Manchester, UK

In Manchester, England, we have been piloting (for global scale-up) our Empowerment-Plus interfaith social cohesion & enterprise initiative. Empowerment-Plus helps young adults from all faith backgrounds to channel their energies and capabilities toward building lives, families, careers, businesses and friendship networks with a lively faith in the Lord.

The curriculum links basic principles of success, such as wise stewardship of resources, with scriptural principles from the Bible, Quran, and other scriptures, helping young adults make the connection between faith and daily decisions. The focus is not on interfaith dialogue, but on interfaith action. For instance, rather than debating faith, the participants share how their faith does (or doesn’t) guide decisions. And rather than debating theology, the participants look at the best ways to set up and run a socially responsible and profitable business.

Among our most enthusiastic participants and partners are Muslims. Several came from a Nigerian mosque in Manchester, that has born the brunt of several attacks, including having a pig’s head thrown into their property.

Pictured above with me are Imam Muhammad al Akkas (right) and his colleague Abdullah from the Al-Furqan Islamic Centre, where we’re planning to hold the next Empowerment-Plus course on “Finding a Better Job” as well as seminars on how to be a good listener-facilitator. As you see in the photo, we’re holding a shirt Muhammad had made saying, “Being a Muslim, I Jesus the Messiah.”

Although Christians have a different notion of what being the Messiah means, the Quran refers to Jesus as such at least nine times (Quran Suras 3:45; 4:157, 171, 172; 5:17, 72, 75; 9:30, 31). For instance, Sura 3:45 says “… the angels said, “O Mary, indeed Allah gives you good tidings of a word from Him, whose name will be the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary – distinguished in this world and the Hereafter and among those brought near [to Allah ].”

While Muhammad and I (as a Catholic) might not agree on the theology, we certainly agree that it’s important to honor the Lord by helping young people practice solid principles grounded in faith and virtue that leads to employment and empowerment.

Muhammed is not alone in his willingness to work at the grass roots level in interfaith action – he’s one of a legion of Muslims from around the world who have studied in the United States and worked in the West. While experience in the West doesn’t always lead to such collaboration, it certainly may begin to take off in 2017 and the years ahead.

Business Leader: Beirut, Lebanon

Empowerment-Plus draws its inspiration from business leaders around the world engaged in similar enterprises and initiatives. For instance, the Makhzoumi Foundation founded by Lebanese industrialist Dr. Fouad Makhzoumi, CEO of Future Pipe Industries Group Ltd., engages in similar projects and serves as a successful model informing the development Empowerment-Plus.

Dr. Makhzoumi is key advocate for interfaith understanding, religious freedom and peace in Lebanon and a Sunni Muslim.

Dr. Makhzoumi is a recipient of the Global Business & Interfaith Peace Prize award by the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation in collaboration with the United Nations Global Compact with support from the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations. He received the award for his work in founding (in 1997) the Makhzoumi Foundation, motivated by his strong desire to help empower fellow citizens to achieve self-sufficient independence via improved career prospects, regardless of religion or creed.

Starting the Makhzoumi Foundation was a significant step forward given that Lebanon was emerging from a 15-year civil war that fell along sectarian lines and left the country in a state of disrepair with a desperate need to rebuild and jumpstart its flailing economy and educational system.

Indeed, Dr. Makhzoumi – a Sunni Muslim – powerfully lays out the case for interfaith understanding and religious freedom in his acceptance speech for the Global Business & Interfaith Peace Prize in a video already viewed by more than 75,000 (see newly added video with Arabic subtitles here).

Dr. Makhzoumi’s wife, Mrs. May Makhzoumi leads the work of the Makhzoumi Foundation in carrying out computer, language and vocational training for minimal fees. They also provide health care as well as microlending services for new business start-ups, and Dr. Makhzoumi just this past week launched a new centre for entrepreneurship at the Lebanese American University in Beirut.

Islamic Scholar: Marrakesh, Morocco

As I write this, I’m in Abu Dhabi, UAE, for the third follow-up meeting I’ve participated in to help promote a remarkable achievement – The January 2016 Marrakesh Declaration: Protections for the Rights of Religious Minorities in Muslim Lands.

At the Forum for Peace annual meeting occurring now, His Eminence Shaykh Abdullah bin Bayyah (pictured at left), the President of the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies, noted that Muslim societies are sick, and it’s a problem of the heart. And to bring peace, Muslim solutions must address the heart.

One step toward putting the heart in the right disposition is viewing non-Muslims as having equal rights and status as citizens. This view has historic roots dating to the time of Prophet Mohammed and the Medina Charter. The Marrakesh Declaration was issued at a time of heightened social hostility fueled by violent extremism, widespread Islamophobia and the denial of rights, sometimes justified by misrepresentations of Islamic teachings.

A summary of the Marrakesh Declaration includes:

— “The objectives of the Charter of Medina provide a suitable framework for national constitutions in countries with Muslim majorities, and are in harmony with the United Nations Charter and related documents, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

— “Affirm[s] that it is impermissible to employ religion for the purpose of detracting from the rights of religious minorities in Muslim countries.”

— “Call[s] upon representatives of the various religions, sects and denominations to confront all forms of religious bigotry, vilification and denigration of what people hold sacred, as well as all words that promote hatred and racism.”

This past summer, Shaykh bin Bayyah agreed to prepare a special video discussion on the Marrakesh Declaration for me to show to a standing room only meeting in Rimini, Italy, at a conference that attracts over 800,000 each year.

Interviewing me in the session was the president of Italian State TV Monica Maggioni. After she watched the video, she exclaimed, “Why doesn’t this make news?!”

I replied, “You’re the journalist, you tell me.”

2. Workplace “Fairness for All”

Ted Childs, former chief diversity officer for IMB, asserts that religion is the next big thing that major corporations will need to navigate. Corporations worldwide have recently focused on LGBT issues, and, using the same argument of “fairness for all,” companies will grapple with how to reasonably accommodate and not discriminate against religion in the workplace.

Why?

Freedom of Religion or Belief is an internationally recognized human right. Article 18 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:

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.

However, 36% of American workers report experiencing or witnessing workplace religious discrimination, according to a recent Tanenbaum survey, “What American Workers Really Think about Religion.”

But the most successful businesses encourage an environment in which employees can bring their “full self” to work. Employees need to feel comfortable being who they are in the workplace, including being true to their core identity and beliefs. That includes recognizing and respecting an employee’s religion and its practice.

In today’s increasingly more competitive business environment, companies will need to draw upon the talent and experience of every employee. They can’t afford to leave anyone out. If they exclude or alienate someone for reasons having nothing to do with a person’s ability to do the job, they might also be excluding the next great business solution or the next great product idea. The very thing a company might need for its success. At the very least, they’ll be missing out on lots of really great talent.

And as companies become increasingly more global, they’ll need employees who reflect the increasing diversity of their customers. They’ll need employees who can relate to the daily experience of customers and who can see the customer point of view. For potentially billions of customers, religious belief and practice are a part of daily life. Having employees who understand that will not only help companies avoid costly missteps, it will also help companies develop products and services better tailed to customer needs. That’s an essential part of being competitive.

The Religious Freedom & Business Foundation has developed a Corporate Pledge that supports religious diversity and freedom in the workplace and sends two clear messages to current and prospective employees:

  1. (1) You can work here without changing who you are; and
  2. (2) the company respects all employees and will not favor certain employees over others … and that’s good for the business of all.

In the coming year I believe that the principles in the Pledge will increasingly become one component of a company’s overall strategy to value its employees and increase their loyalty for the benefit of customers and shareholders. The FoRB Pledge is a company’s public commitment to take reasonable steps to ensure that working at the company does not put employees at odds with their deeply held religious convictions.

3. Asia Will Take a Lead

Silence – the new Martin Scorsese film set in Japan – is scheduled for release in the United States on December 23, 2016. Based on the historical novel by Shūsaku Endō, Silence tells the story of two Jesuit missionaries sent to Japan to discover whether a colleague denied God in the face of brutal persecution. By Pew Research estimates, however, today Japan scores among countries with the highest government respect for religious freedom – outranking the United States. And Japan is not the only Asian country besting the US.

Specifically, among the 26 most populous countries, governments of three Asian countries have higher levels of government support for (i.e., lower levels of restrictions on) religious freedom than the United States, where government restrictions on religious freedom are higher and have been rising according to Pew Research.

As shown in the chart, the United States scores 3.0 out of a maximum of 10.0 on the Government Restrictions on Religion index, according to data recently published by the Pew Research Center.

The Philippines, by contrast, scores 1.0 out of a maximum of 10.0 on the index, Japan scores 1.1 and South Korea 2.0, all with fewer government restrictions on religious freedom than the U.S.

Among the 26 most populous nations, however, three East Asian countries have governments that are very highly restrictive of religious freedom: China (scoring 9.1 out of 10.0), Indonesia (8.5), and Burma/Myanmar, according to the Pew index. One East Asian country is highly restrictive: Vietnam (6.1), and one is moderately restrictive: Thailand (4.4).

Although Taiwan is not counted among the 26 most populous nations, Pew scores Taiwan as low on restrictions and therefore high on freedom.

Given the recent political posturing between U.S. president-elect Donald Trump and China, which included Trump being the first U.S. president or president-elect to talk to the president of Taiwan since 1979 when the United States recognized Beijing as the legitimate government of China rather than Taipei.

The prospects for new innovations coming from East Asian nations committed to religious freedom are likely in 2017. For instance, this year Taiwan organized an international symposium attended by representatives from 27 countries resulting in a Declaration of Religious Freedom, prominently citing the connection between religious freedom and business.

And the prospects of a possible run for the South Korean presidency by outgoing UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who has been a clear supporter of the role of business in advancing interfaith understanding, religious freedom and peace, add another reason to expect religious freedom & business innovations coming from Asia.

Of course, much depends on China itself, the biggest player in the region. Of course, the devil’s in the details, but given a rash of recent government actions to impose its supremacy over culture, in particular, religion, China’s economic success is under threat.

This conclusion is based on a new study which I authored, The Modern Chinese Secret Sustainable Economic Growth: Religious Freedom & Diversity.

The study’s findings – published in this past summer’s edition of The Review of Faith & International Affairs – will be surprising to the half of China’s population for whom religion is not a significant part of life. To the other half, they will make some sense, but still may be surprising. The reason is twofold.

First, those who do not practice religion often tend to have their closest personal and social connections with people like themselves. Accordingly, people who do not encounter religion on a day-to-day basis may consider it to be an insignificant factor.

Second, even those practicing a faith may not be aware of the connections between faith, freedom, and business because there has been very little research looking at the connections.

Also, if external threats are perceived to be growing by the government, then rallying the population may also mean some additional concessions to religion in order to keep them on China’s side. Whether they will reduce restrictions on religious freedom in 2017 is yet to be seen.

For more on the Yin and Yang of religion and religious freedom in China, see my Weekly Number China blog. But one thing’s for certain, with nearly half of the Chinese population being religious active, and with research showing the positive contribution to the economy of religious and religious freedom, China has incentive to ease restrictions.

Welcome 2017

2017 marks the third anniversary of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation’s first-of-its-kind effort to engage the global business community in advancing interfaith understanding, religious freedom and peace. It’s fair to say that the progress we’ve seen gives some reason to believe that this coming year will be the Year of Religious Freedom & Business. The advances so far include:

  • • Recognizing business champions at the inaugural Global Business & Interfaith Peace Awards
  • • Launching the Corporate Pledge on Religious Freedom
  • • Piloting (for global scale-up) our Empowerment+ interfaith social cohesion & enterprise initiative
  • • Seeing our research covered by global press (from Forbes to Fox and Al Jazeera to EWTN)

Writing now from Abu Dhabi, and having travelled around the world several times over just this year, there is hope that the three religious freedom innovations discussed above are set to soar in 2017. Certainly, I’ll be doing my best to give them some fuel. Let me know if you’d like to help too.

With abiding faith, hope and love, I for one am looking forward to the New Year.

Role of Religious Leaders in Addressing Violent Extremism

20 May, 2015


By +John Cardinal Onaiyekan, Catholic Archbishop of Abuja – Nigeria

Prepared comments for the 3rd World Forum on Inter Cultural Dialogue, Baku – Azerbaijan, May 18-19, 2015. In addition to his duties in Nigeria, Cardinal John Onaiyekan is a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the Role of Faith.

This is the first in a series of articles where religious & business leaders speak out about countering violent extremism. For more on the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation’s work on countering radicalization, see the Empowerment+ Initiative.

Introduction

Violent Religious Extremism (VRE) has in recent times become a topic for frequent discussion at many inter-faith gatherings and conferences. Some of us in this panel have been encountering ourselves on such occasions across the continents. This is not surprising. Rather it has become necessary since VRE has become a matter of grave concern in our contemporary world to both civil authorities and religious communities and institutions. The exploits and atrocities of terrorists of all kinds of names on rampage in many parts of the world today, claiming to be acting in the name of God and for the promotion of a religion, are a major challenge to governments and an embarrassment to religious authorities. This came out very clearly in the recent, first of its kind, two-day event convened at the UN General Assembly at which high level spokespersons of the major world religions robbed minds with the country representatives of the nations of the world in the hall of the General Assembly. The entire proceedings were facilitated by the UN High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations, and chaired by the incumbent President of the General Assembly and the Secretary General of the UN, both in person. It is good that we are now not only taking this matter seriously but also acknowledging that there is need to bring many stakeholders, including and especially religious authorities, to reflect and act together on this matter that is of concern to us all.

We must commend and congratulate the government of Azerbaijan for its commitment organizing forums like this one here in what has become known as the “Baku Process”. Some people may say that there are too many meetings, with talking and no effective action. But meeting and talking is by means a waste of time – or money! Talking and reflecting together leads to a change of attitude. This leads to a change of behaviour, which in turn leads finally to a change in the world. We cannot be tired until there is peace and harmony in our world.

Non-violent Religious Extremism

Permit me to start my contribution here with a point I raised already in the UN event mentioned above. VRE has its origin and context in an environment of widespread generally accepted non-violent religious extremism. Where religious intolerance holds sway with a rejection of the other, the ground is fertile for the emergence of VRE, even without carrying guns and bombs. Christianity and Islam are particularly susceptible to this kind of intolerance because of the sometimes mutually exclusive absolute doctrinal claims of each of them. In our contemporary world, characterized by an ever increasing globalization and pluralism of faiths, the challenge is on us all to find ways to reconcile our absolute claims with acknowledging the right of others to their own absolute claims, in a spirit of mutual respect and freedom. Religious leaders can no longer abdicate their responsibility to review their doctrines and dogmas along these lines, and pass this down the line to the local teachers and preachers, and ultimately to the general adherents at the grass roots. The good news is that the people at the grassroots are often not the problem. I am proud to claim that my Church, the Catholic Church has been working along these lines for the past 50 years following the Second Vatican Council. Pope Paul VI, in the 60s, laid down the principles to guide this process, that while the essence of the content of the Catholic faith remains ever true and unchangeable, the way it is expressed and presented, both in words and ritual gestures, can change, and has always changed, with the times. Other religious communities have to embrace his task, according to their own principles and traditions. There can be no peaceful living together in our contemporary world unless we find a way, not only to tolerate, but also to respect and accept one another. The era of every nation with its religion is over and gone. This calls for new attitudes and rules for living together in peace and harmony. We note that this is not only not impossible, but that it is already happening in many parts of the world. A good example is the revision of school religious text books and catechisms to give children a positive orientation in this regard from early childhood.

Charity Begins at Home

If our world is to move effectively towards a new era of respect for legitimate pluralism and the right to be different on the basis of a free conscience, then “charity must begin at home”.

Religious communities have to get used to differences within their respective religious families. The Christian community has accepted this reality for many centuries. The times when heretics had no right to exist, and had only the choice between falling in line with rigid orthodoxy or get roasted at the stake are long gone. The aim of the world ecumenical movement has been to maintain some measure of mutual respect in one faith family despite our differences of doctrines and church institutions. Islam and other world religions cannot delay indefinitely this kind of process.

More significant and urgent is the national dimension of this discussion. Every nation will need to readjust its laws and institutions in such a way that citizens can enjoy equal rights as citizens, irrespective of their religious affiliation. This is the situation in most countries of the world. But there are a few significant exceptions, where a particular religion is considered by law as the official religion of the state, where as a result, the adherents of other faiths are allowed at most the status of second class citizens. A nation which does not respect religious pluralism within its own borders can hardly sincerely and effectively demand it on a global level. The time has come to go beyond political politeness and diplomatic niceties, and call a spade a spade wherever religious freedom is denied or restricted for whatever reason or excuse.

Religious leaders should be in the front line of the defence of freedom of religion, not only for their own adherents, but for all others too. This is particularly necessary where persons belonging to a religious minority suffer discrimination. For example, Christian religious leaders in a predominant Christian country should spear-head action in defence of Muslim minority rights, just as Muslim religious leaders in a predominant Muslim country have a duty to defend the religious rights of the Christian minority. This is what will bring about peace and harmony among religious communities, and in the society at large.

Response to Religious Provocation: Scope and Limits

The recent tragic event connected with the attack on Charlie Hebdo publication in Paris has brought to world attention the delicate question of the scope and limits of response to religious provocation. We must continue to insist on the need to respect our respective sensitivities as regards what we all hold sacred. In particular, religious leaders must give leadership in refraining from insulting or ridiculing the religion of other people. We should be able to freely propagate our own religion without condemning others.

But when our religion is insulted, is there no limit to our response to such provocation? This is the issue raised by the Paris tragedy. Freedom of religion includes the freedom not to have any religion. Can we tolerate the annoying expressions of those who do not share our own sense of the sacred? The extreme case is where laws prescribe a death sentence for alleged “blasphemy”. There surely must be a better and more humane way to show our honour and respect to God. It is all the more reprehensible when generalized violence, including killing of people and destruction of places of worship are unleashed on communities far away from the scene of the provocation. We saw this in Nigeria after the Swedish cartoons and in the Niger Republic after the Charlie Hebdo incident. These are the things that give bad name to religion.

Heavy Negative Historical Baggage

We have to acknowledge that we are carrying a heavy historical baggage of intolerance and mutual suspicion. VRE has a long history. Still fresh in many minds are the stories of the Jihads and Crusades, traditionally told in glorious and heroic terms. We have to retell these stories of horrendous violence and destruction in a way that we may learn not to repeat the mistake of the past. I am aware that significant efforts have been made along these lines in many Christian circles. I will be glad to be informed of similar efforts in Muslim circles.

We cannot forget the dark history of many wars fought presumably in the name of God, in the promotion of one religion or the other. Today, religious leaders all over the world must adopt a zero tolerance attitude to inflicting violence on people for reasons of their religious opinions. We all need to agree that “religion is proposed, never to be imposed”. Our recent Popes have often insisted that to kill people in the name of God is a great blasphemy, and an insult against the Almighty God and Creator of every human person. It is in any case futile to impose religion by force. One may enforce compliance but never conviction.

Freedom of religion and of conscience, after the right to life, is the most important of all human rights. Our contemporary world that speaks so much of human rights must not close its eyes to the violation of this particular human right wherever it is denied or restricted. Those who are struggling for their rights in this regard deserve the support of all, especially when they are using non-violent means. This has been the heroic story of true martyrs all through the ages who have endured sufferings, deprivations and even death, rather than deny their faith.

Misuse of Religion

In many instances, religion has been co-opted into battles for other agenda of violence. Here we have cases of the abuse and misuse of religion. Religious leaders need to consistently liberate religion from such misuse, despite the patronages of political and social forces. There is a great challenge here for religious leaders in places with long tradition of close ties and cooperation, or sometimes even collusion, between religious and civil authorities. How can religious institutions positively cooperate with civil authorities for the greater good of the people, while retaining the freedom to give spiritual guidance to politicians and others who wield power? This is an ever pressing challenge.

Promoting Spiritual Values

The genuine role of religious leaders in the state is to positively promote spiritual values and virtues like justice, honesty, solidarity, modesty, care of the weak and the poor and similar concerns. These are areas where they can legitimately cooperate with civil authorities, in the service of the people. These are also fertile grounds for interfaith cooperation.

Seeking Common Grounds

If interfaith cooperation is to take place, religious leaders must constantly seek and discover the common grounds that they share in terms of religious convictions, moral principles and spiritual values. It is on the basis of such shared values that common action can effectively be undertaken. The attention of the international community is now being focussed on sustainable development. Religious leaders must join in and be admitted into the definition of the concrete content of this grand idea. They also have a major role in bringing the ideas to the awareness of the people at the grassroots whom they teach and preach to in their places of worship. Here again, their contribution will be all the more effective if carried out in interfaith cooperation. Areas of special concern for them would be the moral dimensions of projects envisaged and the importance of peace based on justice, on the local and global levels.

Conclusion

There are many people in our world today who refuse to see anything good in religion. They claim that it has been responsible for a lot of problems and evils in our world all through history. They therefore claim that the world would be much better off without religion. Unfortunately, there have been many instances when religion has been perceived as the cause of many wars and conflicts, both in history and even today. There are many self-proclaimed people of religion who have given religion a bad name.

But the same history has shown that the rejection of religion from human affairs has hardly ever created a paradise on earth. Furthermore, scientific evidence has shown that even today, more than 85% of the human race claims that they are guided by some form of religious conviction. It is therefore quite futile to ignore religion in human affairs.

The challenge is for this silent majority to rise up and save religion from the bad image that the few extremists are giving to it. This challenge falls especially, but not only, on the religious leaders. All stakeholders must join hands to put religion in a position to make its very valid contribution to the well-being of humanity. In fact, those who care to look at things objectively have confirmed the valid role which religious communities have been playing in the lives of the peoples of the world. Where there are no undue restrictions, religious communities and their leaders have proved their ability to reach down to the most needy and neglected. Here, Christianity and Islam must take a major responsibility, since they are the religions with the widest following. It is certainly the will of God the Creator of all humanity that we live in peace with one another in a safe, peaceful and harmonious world. We must all be part of the project to achieve this.

I want to end with an observation in form of a concluding appendix. In this forum and in some other similar ones that I have participated in, the discussion is often presented in form of relationship between “Islam and the West”. To me, this formulation is inaccurate, misleading and unhelpful. I ask myself where I come into this picture, since I am neither Muslim nor Western. Comparing Islam with the west is like comparing oranges with apples. Islam goes well beyond the Middle East and Arab lands, and what we now call “the West” has lost or abandoned much of its traditional Christian character. If we are to make progress in these matters, we would need to clarify better these overlapping and often conflicting identities. Those of us who do not fall within the parameters of “Islam and the West” have our own story too. This could provide some valid lessons for the rest of the world. But is anyone listening to us?

Leaders-Speak

Religion On The Rise: What This Means for Business, Peace & Conflict

2 Apr, 2015

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

As new religious freedom legislation in U.S. states is opposed by business, the innocent bystander in the heated debate is religious freedom itself. Religious freedom is a topic that the world and not just the U.S. needs to get right. Why? Research released today shows that the world will be MORE religious in the decades ahead, not less.

It is helpful to review why religious freedom are important to get right. First, a more religious planet can be good for the economy, as I argue in this new piece for the World Economic Forum, giving examples of a surprising number of businesses worldwide motivated and enlivened by faith, ranging fro Adventists to Zoroastrians.

WEF-faith-economy

Second, a more religious planet can be a more peaceful plant, to the degree that religious growth is accompanied by freedom of religion or belief, not coercion. In this new piece for the global agenda council of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, I review the latest research supporting this fundamental benefit of religious freedom – peace.

TBFF-religion-rise

Third, religious freedom is linked to economic growth and economic strength. Indeed, as the world navigates away from years of poor economic performance, freedom of religion or belief may be an unrecognized asset. For instance, 10 of the 12 pillars of global competitiveness, as measured by the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index, are stronger where religious freedom is stronger.

WEF-blog2

And finally, religious liberty ensures that the positive side of religion has the freedom to do goodOne promising new venture along these lines is a new initiative that is countering hate and intolerance with love and understanding, drawing on the very radical religious suggestion in the Good Samaritan story that we should love our neighbors. And in the case of that parable, the Samaritan neighbor is a foreigner with a foreign religion. Indeed, some radical religious ideas are very peaceful.

Also, see my recent Vatican Radio interview on this.

Grim-Vatican-Radio

In the weeks and months ahead, I’ll be discussing these in venues as diverse as the U.S. Southern Command’s second annual “Faith Matters” event, drawing military leaders from throughout Latin America and the Caribbean to explore how religious freedom promotes peace and prosperity. I’ll then be in Brazil for several major events in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s financial capital. And then in May, I’ll be back in London to move the counter-radicalization initiative forward.

Thank you for your support and interest, and please don’t hesitate to contact me if I can be of assistance in your work.

Brian Grim
President, RFBF