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Category Archives: Brazil

Oldest Mosque Hosts Religious Freedom & Business Celebration

9 May, 2015

Event kicks off focus on Religious Freedom and Business

By Claudia Augelli (see original press release at the Religion News Service

Brazil celebrated a first place finish this week. No, not in soccer, but in religious freedom. Surprised? If yes, you are in good company. This finding from a recent study by the Pew Research Center also surprised Brazil’s Vice President Michel Temer, as religious, political and business leaders just learned in Sao Paulo.


Last week, Latin America’s oldest mosque, Mesquita Brasil, in Brazil’s financial capital of São Paulo, brought some 700 leaders together for a gala celebration where Muslims, Jews and Christians dined side-by-side to commemorate its status as a leader in religious freedoms. The theme was, “Brazil a voice to the world.” The event is the first of a series to bolster the role of business in supporting religious freedom.

Among the 25 most populous countries, Brazil has the lowest government restrictions on religious freedom, lower in fact, in the United States, where a study by the Pew Research Center finds that restrictions have been rising.

Brazil is peacefully undergoing one of the most dramatic religious shifts in the world today. Most of the shift has been from Roman Catholicism to energetic and conservative forms of Pentecostalism and other minority denominations Grim said. In other parts of the world, active and conservative religion is sometimes equated with extremism and political destabilization.

But Sheikh Abdel Hammed Metwally, religious leader of Mesquita Brasil, highlighted the positive example of interfaith understanding and peace in Brazil. “This will be the first of many meetings”, he said, and “given the importance of the subject we want to share it with more people and show the world how Brazil stands out in leading position, by tolerating and peacefully accommodate the most diverse creeds. “

Nasser Fares, the lay president of Mesquita Brasil considered it an honor to welcome such an eclectic group in a celebration, highlighting Brazil as an example to other nations.  Ricardo Cerqueira Leite, president of the Association for Religious Freedom and Business (ALRN) also noted that Brazil is ahead of many countries to express support and respect for peaceful religious diversity. “We are essentially a nation with natural vocation to deal with religious differences,” he said, “and to conduct ourselves in ways that highlight these values as an example to the world.”

Although Brazil has the world’s largest Catholic population, religious freedom is most keenly appreciated by religious minorities. The Mormon church, for instance, has benefited from this freedom with Brazil being home to more than a million members. Among the speakers was Elder D. Todd Christofferson, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Delivering remarks in Portuguese, Christofferson congratulated Brazil for this significant distinction. “I encourage you to hold fast to the freedoms you have forged at home and to lead courageously in promoting religious freedom on the world stage, he said. “The need to protect and preserve religious liberty — in a fair and balanced way that also protects others’ fundamental rights — is acute.”

Brian Grim, president of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, noted that one of the most important factors to the peaceful navigation of the past decades of religious change is the position taken by the majority faith – Catholicism – toward religious freedom. Grim observed that the clear and unequivocal Declaration on Religious Freedom, Dignitatus Humanae, promulgated in 1965 by Pope Paul VI during the Vatican II was important because the “dominant faith was bound by its doctrine to a higher spiritual calling than protecting mere membership rosters. It seems clear that, in this case, this doctrine produced peace not conflict,” according to Grim.

Brazilians at the grassroots level plan to promote religious freedom worldwide through a series of initiatives, including hosting awards during the Rio 2016 Olympics that recognize the best advances and innovations by businesses in improving respect for religious freedom, interfaith understanding and peace.

Additional news coverage (in Portuguese):

Groundbreaking Publication – BUSINESS: A Powerful Force for Interfaith Understanding and Peace

21 Aug, 2014

*** UPDATE: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon gives keynote address at the launch of this new, groundbreaking publication on Aug. 29, at UNAOC, Bali, Indonesia, during the event organized by the Indonesia Global Compact Network (IGCN) ***

IMMEDIATE RELEASE: USA and Indonesia – August 21, 2014: The UN Global Compact Business for Peace platform and the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation announce a new resource to highlight how businesses can promote interfaith understanding and peace.

The resource – available here – will be introduced during the 2014 Global Forum of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations ( UNAOC ) held in Bali, Indonesia, August 29-30. The approaches highlighted in the resource include:

  • Using Marketing Expertise to Bridge Borders: Companies can make positive contributions to peace in society by mobilizing advertising campaigns that bring people of various faiths and backgrounds together, as seen in Coke Serves Up Understanding Across Borders.
  • Incentivizing Innovation: Because cross-cultural dialogue and cooperation is an essential part of daily work for multinational companies, one company, the BMW Group, incentivizes other organizations to create innovative approaches to interfaith understanding through an award organized in collaboration with the UN Alliance of Civilizations. Organizations that have won this award include a tour company in the Middle East, which offers new paths to build bridges and bring cultures together, as seen in Promoting Understanding Through Tourism in the Holy Lands. Another recognized intercultural innovator uses job placements agencies to help contribute to the religious diversity of workforces, as seen in Helping Muslim Youth in the Philippines.
  • Incubating and Catalyzing Social Entrepreneurship: Business can also provide common ground where religious differences give way to shared concern and enterprise. Opportunity and Entrepreneurship in Nigeria describes an approach modeled by a peace-building organization showing how supporting companies and new entrepreneurs in conflict-affected areas can reduce extremism. Petrobras Supporting Business Incubation for Afro-Brazilians similarly shows how company support for new small enterprises can have a significant impact in developing marginalized communities.
  • Supporting Workforce Diversity: When businesses are sensitive to the religious and cultural issues around them, they can not only increase employee morale and productivity, but also address unmet difficult social needs, as shown in Indonesia Businesses Open Their Doors to Faith and Action.

Through this collaborative publication, the UN Global Compact’s Business for Peace platform and the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation seek to raise awareness among business, Governments and other stakeholders of the ways in which business can and are contributing to interfaith understanding and peace.

“Given its role in building economies, mobilizing people around a shared purpose and pioneering cross-cultural management styles, business has an important stake in promoting intercultural and interreligious understanding. Successfully managing diversity and fostering tolerance and understanding – among employees, consumers and other stakeholders – is increasingly essential for long-term business success.”

— Georg Kell, Executive Director, United Nations Global Compact

“Business is at the crossroads of culture, commerce and creativity. This means businesses have the resources to make the world more peaceful as well as the incentive to do so. Indeed, as these case studies show, business is good for interfaith understanding, religious freedom and peace.”

— Brian Grim, President, Religious Freedom and Business Foundation

Indeed, interfaith understanding – and its contribution to peace – is in the interest of business.

  • Recent research shows that economic growth and global competitiveness are stronger when social hostilities involving religion are low and Government respect for, and protection of, the universally recognized human right of freedom is high.
  • Interfaith understanding also strengthens business by reducing corruption and encouraging broader freedoms while also increasing trust and fostering respect. Research shows that laws and practices stifling religion are related to higher levels of corruption. Similarly, religious freedom highly correlates with the presence of other freedoms and a range of social and economic goods, such as better health care and higher incomes for women.
  • Positively engaging around the issue of interfaith understanding also helps business to advance trust and respect with consumers, employees and possible partner organizations, which can give companies a competitive advantage as sustainability and ethics come to the forefront of corporate engagement with society.
  • With the shared vision of a more sustainable and inclusive global economy that delivers lasting benefits to people, communities and markets, it is clear that companies can make significant contributions to advancing interfaith understanding and peace through both core business and outreach activities. The examples in this publication offer an important step forward in providing companies with guidance on why and how they can make practical contributions in this area – in ways benefitting both their business and the societies where they operate.

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