Business: A powerful force for
interfaith understanding & peace


EU Parliament – 6 Sept. – Religion, Business & Human Rights

23 Aug, 2017
© European Union 2017

On Wednesday 6 September 2017, the European Platform against Religious Intolerance and Discrimination (EPRID) and Quê Me: Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR), in collaboration with the office of Ramon Tremosa i Balcells MEP, organised a Conference on “Religion, Business and Human Rights” at the European Parliament.

Speakers included Dr Brian Grim, President of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation (USA); Dr Ján Figel’, Special Envoy on the Promotion and Protection of Freedom of Religion or Belief outside the EU; Amarjit Singh, Partner at Ernst & Young LLP (UK); Michael Wakelin, Faculty of Divinity, University of Cambridge, and Merete Bilde of the European External Action Service.

The Conference was chaired by MEP Ramon Tremosa i Balcells, moderated by Penelope Faulkner, member of EPRID’s Board of Coordinators and Vice-President of VCHR, and attended by wide diversity of MEPs and staff, diplomats, officials from EU institutions, religious leaders and human rights defenders from the EU and Asia.

Below is a snapshot photo-report of the Conference. We will follow up soon with a more detailed account including conclusions and recommendations.

© European Union 2017

© European Union 2017

Ramon Tremosa i Balcells MEP, ALDE Coordinator for the EP Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON) - © European Union 2017

Ramon Tremosa i Balcells MEP, ALDE Coordinator for the EP Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON) – © European Union 2017

“Freedom of Religion or Belief is close to the core of every human being, so that some have argued that religion should be a private matter. So what has the business world to do with this human right? More than you might think!


Every day, businesses around the world bring together people from different backgrounds and religions to accomplish a shared purpose – producing a product or service for others. At the same time, societies are becoming more religiously diverse. The Sustainable Development Goals 2030 include several references to diversity and inclusion, and it is widely accepted that diversity will increasingly impact employees and markets. Facilitating this diversity is one component of a company’s overall strategy to value their employees and increase their loyalty for the benefit of customers and shareholders.”


Dr Brian Grim, founder and president of the US-based Religious Freedom & Business Foundation - © European Union 2017

Dr Brian Grim, founder and president of the US-based Religious Freedom & Business Foundation – © European Union 2017

Dr. Ján Figel’, Special Envoy for promotion of freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) outside the EU - © European Union 2017

Dr. Ján Figel’, Special Envoy for promotion of freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) outside the EU – © European Union 2017

Merete Bilde, policy advisor at the European External Action Service (EEAS) - © European Union 2017

Merete Bilde, policy advisor at the European External Action Service (EEAS) – © European Union 2017

Michael Wakelin, Executive Associate in Public Education for the Faculty of Divinity, University of Cambridge, former head of Religion at the BBC - © European Union 2017

Michael Wakelin, Executive Associate in Public Education for the Faculty of Divinity, University of Cambridge, former head of Religion at the BBC – © European Union 2017

Amarjit Singh, Partner at the company Ernst and Young, wealth and asset management, chair of the Ernst and Young Sikh Network - © VCHR 2017

Amarjit Singh, Partner at the company Ernst and Young, wealth and asset management, chair of the Ernst and Young Sikh Network – © VCHR 2017

Penelope Faulkner, member of EPRID’s Board of Coordinators and Vice-President of VCHR - © European Union 2017

Penelope Faulkner, member of EPRID’s Board of Coordinators and Vice-President of VCHR – © European Union 2017

Penelope Faulkner and Ramon Tremosa MEP - © European Union 2017

Penelope Faulkner and Ramon Tremosa MEP – © European Union 2017

VCHR President Vo Van Ai and Peter Van Dalen MEP, Co-Chair of the European Parliament Intergroup on Freedom of Religion or Belief and Religious Tolerance - © VCHR 2017

VCHR President Vo Van Ai and Peter Van Dalen MEP, Co-Chair of the European Parliament Intergroup on Freedom of Religion or Belief and Religious Tolerance – © VCHR 2017


Dr Susan Kerr (far right), member of EPRID’s Board of Coordinators, prepares the conclusions for the Conference - © VCHR 2017

Dr Susan Kerr (far right), member of EPRID’s Board of Coordinators, prepares the conclusions for the Conference – © VCHR 2017

Saumura Tioulong, Member of the Cambodian Parliament, and Sam Rainsy, leader in exile of the Cambodian opposition - © VCHR 2017

Saumura Tioulong, Member of the Cambodian Parliament, and Sam Rainsy, leader in exile of the Cambodian opposition – © VCHR 2017

Charlottesville Violence Highlights High Religious Hostilities in U.S. and World

14 Aug, 2017

The deadly anti-Semitic and racist demonstrations in the Virginia city of Charlottesville over the weekend are further evidence of high social hostilities involving religion in the United States.

Religious hostilities in the U.S. are high, according to the Pew Research Center’s past two annual reports (see line chart). The events in Charlottesville follow on from last weekend’s bombing of a Minnesota mosque.

Research show that religion-related hostilities negatively impact the economy. One sign of this is that the chief executive of Merck, one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, resigned on Monday from President Trump’s American Manufacturing Council. “America’s leaders must honor our fundamental values by clearly rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry and group supremacy,” said Merck & Co., Inc., CEO Kenneth Frazier.

The religious hostilities in the U.S. are part of a long-term global trend of increasing religious restrictions and hostilities. Indeed, a new analysis of the same Pew data show that the number of people living in countries with high religious restrictions and hostilities has reached nearly six billion people, or 78.5% of the world’s total population in 2017. This represents an increase of 1.1 billion since the first year of the study (see bar chart).* 

To see all the latest data, check out the Powerpoint below.

* Pew data are for 2007 – 2015. Population figures are from 2009 and 2017, the year the reports were released.

Walls and Religious Freedom in 5 Points

7 Aug, 2017

Good fences make good neighbors, so goes a popular saying. To what extent does this backyard wisdom apply to religious freedom today?

There are those who argue that walls are necessary to kept threats out. Others argue that the best way to overcome differences is to build bridges to those who are different and invite them in.

On August 25, 2017, Brian Grim, president of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, will address this question in the following 5 points during The Rimini Meeting, Europe’s largest regular summer gathering of people.*

1) Walls and Religious Freedom: Government and Social

There are two main ways religious freedom is inhibited today. The first is by government laws, actions and policies. The second is by prejudices, discrimination and violence by individuals and groups in society. See the latest data.

2) Walls that Fell: Iron and Bamboo

The Berlin Wall and the Bamboo Curtain are two walls that have fallen in living memory. In the case of the Berlin Wall, barriers are gone. In the case of China’s Bamboo Curtain, new walls have emerged such as its so-called Great Fire Wall, the nationwide internet censoring program. Despite the high level of government controls in China, religion has grown in the country. How is this possible? Read the story.

3) A Wall that Endures: The DMZ

The Korean War did not end, it came to a stalemate. The Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separates a divided Korea. South Korea is one of the world’s most religiously diverse and free countries. Religious Freedom does not exist in the North. Is there any hope for religious freedom in the North? Read an update from the DMZ.

4) Walls for Security

From Israel to the U.S. southern border, governments and societies erect walls they argue are necessary for security. What impact do these walls have on religious freedom? Research, however, clearly shows that religious freedom leads to less conflict and more peace.

5) Walls of the Human Heart

There are many parables showing how the human heart can be the biggest wall against accepting others – a fundamental characteristic of religious freedom. What such parables as the Good Samaritan and the Woman at the Well have to say about religious freedom today? Read Grim’s comments at the Vatican on the role of love in religious freedom.

*The Rimini Meeting – or to give it its official title ‘the Meeting for the Friendship Amongst Peoples’, is a huge social/political/economic/cultural conference run by the Catholic organisation Communion and Liberation.

The Rimini Meeting

Held annually since 1980, the Rimini Meeting attracts over 800,000 people over a period of a week in August to attend talks on a wide range of subjects; from the particularly religious focussed talks through to discussions on Europe, the Economy, social networks etc. It’s no exaggeration to say that whatever your interests are, you’ll probably find a talk at the Meeting which addresses it.

The Meeting always has a stellar cast of panelists – both Italian and International – with government ministers, presidents, prime-ministers all rubbing shoulders with journalists, film-makers, and academics. The event is also organised with an international audience in mind, with simultaneous translation available for most of the large panel events.

Apart from a few people who work full-time for its planning, the festival is entirely staged, managed and dismantled by about 4000 volunteers (mostly university students) coming from all over Italy and other countries of the world.

The meeting has had about 800,000 attendees per year in the last editions. Several prominent people from science, culture, society and politics give lectures at the meeting, including Nobel prize recipients, religious authorities (the Pope participated in 1982), politicians and ministers (the Italian prime minister participated a few times), international authorities (Tony Blair and others), writers, musicians (Riccardo Muti participated).

After the meeting in Rimini, other similar events have been organized: among these, the New York Encounter, an event held in New York in January every year and the Cairo Meeting, held in Cairo (Egypt).

Brian Grim to Address Largest Ever World Congress for Religious Liberty

7 Aug, 2017

Brian Grim will address the largest-ever World Congress for Religious Freedom for August 22, 2017 in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

Join hundreds of academics, religious freedom advocates, public officials, attorneys, and religious leaders from around the globe for the 8th World Religious Liberty Congress.

Hear internationally renowned speakers and experts, and choose from a broad range of breakout groups available in English, Spanish, Portuguese and French. (Translation in these languages will also be provided for plenary sessions.)

Engage with an issue that has become increasingly urgent within today’s geopolitical landscape: Religious Freedom and the Hope for Peaceful Co-existence.

Make valuable contacts within the international religious freedom community.

Notes from DMZ in Korea

24 Jul, 2017

by Brian J. Grim

With tensions rising due to developments in North Korea’s nuclear missile program, what more strategic place to have the 2018 Global Business & Interfaith Peace Awards than on the Korean peninsula! (See my personal trip report at bottom.)

In my recent trip to South Korea (not North), significant strides were made in logistical preparation for the Global Awards. In my meeting with Mr. Lee Hee-beom (pictured), President of the PyeongChang Organizing Committee for the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, he reaffirmed the recommendation of Christophe De Kepper, Director General of the International Olympic Committee, to hold the awards during the time of the Paralympics. (Mr.De Kepper made that recommendation before the first Global Awards during the 2016 Rio Olympic and Paralympic Summer Games).

The Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, together with the United Nations Global Compact, and the Global Compact Network Korea led by Ambassador Suk-Bum Park (recently the Korean Counsel-General in Houston), we will honor business CEOs who advance religious freedom, interfaith understanding and peace through their companies, advocacy, partnerships and/or philanthropy.

We hold the Awards every two years at each Summer and Winter Paralympics. It is especially appropriate to hold the Awards in the context of the Paralympics given that these Games highlight human triumphs over adversity, including athletes overcoming disabilities stemming from war and conflict.

The winners will be announced at the Awards based on the assessment of a very distinguished jury of high-level experts.

The experts hail from the United Nations (H.E. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, UN High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations); the European Union (H.E. Ján Figeľ, Special Envoy for promotion of freedom of religion or belief outside the EU); the NGO religious freedom community (Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett, President of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights & Justice, and a former head of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom); the business & peace community (Per L. Saxegaard, Business CEO, and Founder and Executive Chairman of the Business for Peace Foundation, Oslo, Norway); and the religion & peace community (Dr. Sunggon Kim, Honorary President, Asian Conference of Religions for Peace).

Introducing Dr. David Yoo

Dr. Kyung-Eui (David) Yoo (유경의) is the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation’s representative in Korea, responsible for logistics and programs for the 2018 Global Business & Interfaith Peace Awards to be held March 7-8, 2018, in Seoul and PyeongChang, Korea. The Awards are held biannually in the host country of the Winter and Summer Olympics and Paralympics.

David is also president of Love in Lights, an international social enterprise devoted to providing villages lacking electricity with the appropriate technology to improve the quality of life of families around the world.

In addition to being RFBF’s coordinator the 2018 Global Business & Interfaith Peace Awards, David Yoo has been engaged in numerous athletic activities with a focus on peace including organizing an international professional football club match and an international football competition for women. He believes sportsmanship is the soil where effective peace initiatives grow. David has worked with the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) in 2008 as a member of the Special Project Bureau, FIFA Committee. In 2010, he was Secretary General of the International Peace Sports Federation, and in 2012 he served as President of the International Boxing Federation (IBF) Asia.

In the lead-up to the Global Business & Interfaith Peace Awards, David is serving as Secretary General of the 2017 Appropriate Technology & Humanitarian Aid and Development Global Expo, planned for December 1-3, 2017, in Seoul.


I was in Seoul to participate in a UNESCO working group to address the rise of nationalism and its impact on peace, cohesion and global citizenship — vital topics given the situation in North Korea today. The group was organized by UNESCO-Headquarters, the Korean National Commission for UNESCO (KNCU) & the Asia-Pacific Centre of Education for International Understanding (APCEIU).

There are strong indications that in various regions of the world populist nationalisms and economic protectionism are on the rise. According to recent reports and studies, globalization in trade is in retreat.

Sentiments of support towards nationalist parties and movements (extreme and not so extreme) are being fueled by sharp concerns about unemployment rates and rising income inequalities, as well as negative attitudes towards globalization and immigrants. These political and economic trends seem to be profoundly opposed to what UNESCO’s Global Citizenship Education has been promoting, namely an education that should aim to empower learners to assume active roles to face and resolve global challenges and to become proactive contributors to a more tolerant, inclusive, peaceful and secure world. Paradoxically, in this context, we are witnessing an unprecedented global commitment to quality education and its pivotal role in lifting the disenfranchised out of poverty and accelerating the achievement of peace and sustainable development.

UNESCO is preparing a report on the seminar with recommendations for next steps.

A highlight of my trip was a visit to the DMZ with David Yoo and another colleague from the U.S., John Dickson. It was a highlight not because of the tragedy of the ongoing division of Korea, but because it took me to the place where my father was stationed as a G.I. during the war.

The drive north east along the DMZ from Seoul is not one my Dad would have done (mostly dirt roads back then), but as I showed him the pictures upon returning, they brought back lots of memories. Aside from modernization, one of the big difference he saw in the pictures between then and now is the abundance of trees and greenery today. During the fighting, everything was stripped bare for fuel or shelter.

Having grown up with him telling stories from those days made the trip especially meaningful. Also, the picture at the bottom is from the months before the Armistice was signed. My Dad was on the G.I. baseball (really softball) teams that competed with other G.I. teams, esp. after the Armistice. He wouldn’t have known it then, but he helped bring to Korea what is now its favorite pastime – baseball (according to the Korean Times).

There is hope in South Korea that the upcoming Olympics will be an opportunity to make peace with the North. So, in a small way, through the Global Business & Interfaith Peace Awards I’m hoping to carry on my father’s legacy of sports and peace.

Religious Freedom Fosters Political Stability, Economic Development & Women’s Empowerment

22 Jul, 2017

by Brian J. Grim

Religious freedom plays an important part in flourishing societies, including fostering political stability, economic development and women’s empowerment.Religious freedom is also instrumental in achieving sustainable, inclusive and equitable economic growth, creating greater opportunities for all, reducing inequalities, raising basic standards of living, fostering equitable social development and inclusion, and promoting integrated and sustainable management of natural resources and ecosystems.

Roger Finke and my 2011 Cambridge University Press book, The Price of Freedom Denied, was a groundbreaking analysis of many of these factors. While the book’s primary focus was on how guarantees and respect for freedom of religion or belief by governments and groups in society is associated with less violence and more social and political stability, it also looked at other statistical relationships.

As shown in the chart, religious freedom is statistically correlated with well over a dozen indicators of societal well-being. One of the strongest correlations (besides with other freedoms) is with gender empowerment (.48, where 1.0 is a one-to-one correlation).

Religious freedom is also associated with lower levels of armed conflict, lower poverty, overall livability, lower income inequality, more foreign direct investment and higher earned incomes for women and men.

Religious Freedom and Economic Growth

I’ve also looked as some of the other correlations in more detail, which you can explore in the analysis and links below.

How does religious freedom align with the sustainable development goals?

Ending Poverty

Religious freedom helps tackle “small-p” poverty through “self reliance”

Poverty, some argue, can only be effectively tackled by governments enforcing top-down, big-P Poverty reduction policies and programs. But a host of religious groups haven’t gotten the memo. Innovative faith-based initiatives worldwide are tackling poverty using bottom-up, small-p poverty alleviation approaches that empower individuals to be resourceful, resilient and self-reliant.

Indeed, a central aspect of religious freedom is that it gives faith groups license to innovate and contribute to the wellbeing of individuals, communities and nations. But where religious freedom is curtailed, so are such innovations. For instance, reform-minded Saudi princess Basmah bint Saud argues, religion “should not be a shield behind which we hide from the world but a driving force that inspires us to innovate and contribute to our surroundings.”

This first installment of an ongoing series on the connection between religious freedom and sustainable development describes these small-p initiatives and concludes with a case study of how one faith group is directly targeting and reducing poverty in its congregations worldwide. Such faith-based activities are facilitated by religious freedom and directly contribute to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 1 – Ending poverty in all its forms everywhere.

Also see the related World Economic Forum Agenda article by Brian Grim and Linda Woodhead, Can religion make economic growth more fair?

SDG5-genderEmpowering Women

Brian Grim, President, Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, and Jo-Ann Lyon, General Superintendent, Wesleyan Church, explore how religious freedom contributes directly to women’s empowerment.

Religion is often seen as a barrier to gender parity. Stories abound of gender-based violence done in the name of religion. As a result, in many cases, the issues of religion and gender parity are often dismissed as too complicated to address. There appears to be no way to unwind this rather complex multi-institution.

However, a critical factor overlooked in this conversation is religious freedom. Unless there is religious freedom, minority groups, including women, will not be at the table and their vital, productive and creative voices will not be heard. Corporations and economies will suffer if they miss out on the contribution of women. The denial of religious freedom contributes to gender inequality throughout the world.

Extremist ideologies such as ISIS represent the complete loss of religious freedom, and when respect for a diversity of religious beliefs and practices disappears, gender equality suffers.

Goal 16 - PeaceFostering Peace

A global study challenges myth of religious violence. The research found no general causal relationship between religion and conflict when looking at all of the current conflicts in the world.

The study, conducted by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) in conjunction with the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, aims to get beyond ideology to provide a more comprehensive understanding of how religion interacts with peace.

Quantitative analysis has revealed that many of the commonly made statements surrounding the relationship between peace and religion are not supported by the analysis contained in this study.

Countries with greater religious freedoms are generally more peaceful, whereas countries with less religious freedom are generally less peaceful.

The most influential factor affecting religious freedom is the government type. Full democracies are the most peaceful and have the greatest level of religious freedom, regardless of the type of religious belief or various religious characteristics.

Chinese Faith Communities Contribute Significantly to Local and National Prosperity

22 Jul, 2017

by Brian J. Grim (葛百彦教授)

Excerpt from article in The Review of Faith & International Affairs.


Freedom of religion can contribute to a rich pluralism that is itself associated with economic growth. For instance, the world’s 12 most religiously diverse countries each outpaced the world’s economic growth between 2008 and 2012, according to recent research. Indeed, the active participation of religious minorities in society often boosts economic innovation, as the history of the Industrial Revolution has shown.

In China, during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and 70s, religion was outlawed and many people were persecuted for their beliefs. While it is true that China continues to regulate religion more strictly than other countries, current conditions are far freer. This relative opening-up of society has resulted in the spread of religion, such that China is now home to the world’s second-largest religious population after India, according to the latest demographic estimates.

new study in the China Economic Review finds a link between Christianity, adhered to by some 5% of China’s population, and the nation’s economic growth.

Arguably, ensuring freedom for religious groups in China and elsewhere is a way to stimulate and sustain growth in the decades ahead. It’s something every country can benefit from.

The Economic Strength of China

The latest forecasts indicate that Asia’s economic powerhouse, China, will soon overtake the United States as the world’s largest economy, and by one measure, it has already done so. The IMF (2014) already estimates China’s gross domestic product (GDP) to be $17.6 trillion compared with the $17.4 trillion for the U.S., based on Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) dollars. PPP attempts to take into account the actual cost of goods and services in each country. This means the same basket of goods can be purchased more cheaply in China, giving real purchasing power benefits. So, while China’s unadjusted GDP ($10.4 trillion) has not caught up with the U.S. ($16 trillion), these new estimates reflect enormous economic growth in China. In 1980, the U.S. unadjusted GDP ($5.8 trillion) was nearly 30 times greater than China’s ($0.2 trillion), according to the IMF.

The story of China’s economic growth is not primarily one of competition with the U.S. The story is more complex. Peston (2014) argues that “the most important number in the world, for the past 30 years and next five years, is China’s growth rate” (italics mine). Following 30 years of rapid growth at 10 percent annually, China’s growth slowed to 7 percent as the global economy went through the 2008 downturn. China’s slowdown has adverse implications for all. Living standards in the West have been shored up because China made the things people buy cheaper and cheaper. According to Peston, “We should be under no illusion that the really big thing in the world which will have an impact on our living standards is what happens in China. Nothing else really matters in comparison.”

What’s beneath China’s remarkable economic growth, which has not only given fuel to global growth but also lifted more than 500 million people out of abject poverty?

In part it is due to Deng Xiaoping opening China to market mechanisms, modern technology, and management from the West. And certainly, Chinese government policies moving the country from international isolation to integration have played a significant role. But according to Zhao (2013, 2014), an expert in Chinese business and strategic development at Siemens Corporation, these explanations are insufficient given the potential drags on the economy from government inefficiency and corruption, which President Xi Jinping is struggling to contain (Li and McElveen 2014).

China’s Religion Factor

Zhao argues that Western learning and pro-growth government policies have set loose the real creators of China’s economic success—its people and the largely Confucian culture that makes them “ambitious, hardworking, thrifty, caring for their families, and relentlessly pursuing good education and success” (2014).

Moreover, it is important to get past the notion that China is an unreligious country (see Table). On the one hand, it has more religiously unaffiliated people than any other country, and it is led by a party officially committed to atheism. But on the other hand, China is now home to the world’s second largest religious population after India, according to the latest demographic estimates (Pew Research Center 2012).

Specifically, China is home to the world’s largest Buddhist population, largest folk religionist population, largest Taoist population, 7th largest Christian population, and 17th largest Muslim population (ranking between Yemen and Saudi Arabia in size) making China one of the world’s most religiously diverse nations—something which is also associated with economic growth (Grim 2014a). But the projected growth of Christianity is of particular note. A study by Purdue University’s Yang, cited recently in the Economist (2014), finds that China’s Christian population may become the world’s largest by 2030.

The growth of Christianity and the growth of China’s economy may be related, according to a new study in the China Economic Review (Wang and Lin 2014). In the study, Qunyong Wang from the Institute of Statistics and Econometrics, Nankai University, Tianjin, and Xinyu Lin from Renmin University of China, Beijing, find that Christianity boosts China’s economic growth. Specifically, they find that robust growth occurs in areas of China where Christian congregations and institutions are prevalent.

Using provincial data from 2001 to 2011 in China, Wang and Lin investigated the effect of religious beliefs on economic growth. Among the different religions analyzed, they found that Christianity has the most significant effect on economic growth.

The first among several reasons Wang and Lin site for this effect is that government-recognized Christian congregations and institutions account for 16.75 percent of all religious institutions, and such institutions are tied to economic benefit (see next paragraph). The share of Chinese institutions that are Christian is far higher than the share of the Chinese population made up of Christians affiliated with government-approved churches, which is only about 3 percent. In addition, tens of millions of Chinese belong to unregistered Protestant and Catholic Churches, and many of these also have congregational properties, clinics, and even educational institutions.

Such institutions tend to stimulate economic growth for individuals and communities. Consider, for example, a study (Cohen and Jaeger 2011) in Philadelphia led in part by Prof. Cnann (2014) of the University of Pennsylvania. They found that the 12 congregations examined contributed $52 million in annual economic value to the city of Philadelphia, for an average of $4.3 million per congregation. These benefits not only include direct spending for goods, services, and salaries, but also the safety net and networks provided to individuals, the magnet effect of attracting everything from lectures to weddings, and valuable public spaces that provide communities with centers of cultural, ethical, spiritual, and even recreational value. Such benefits likely occur in China as well, as congregational behavior is broadly similar.

Furthermore, Wang and Lin argue that Chinese Christianity’s social doctrines may also have economic impact. They suggest that Christian ethics emphasize the overall development of human beings, not just economic development. For instance, they observe that the Christian obligation to be accountable to God and their fellow believers tends to result in legal and rational investment behavior rather than illicit or wild speculation.

It may be that the impact of Christianity identified by Wang and Lin is similar to the impact of Confucianism identified by Zhao. In a public dialogue at Peking University (Beijing Forum 2010), world-renowned Confucian scholar, Prof. Tu Weimin of Harvard, and Christian theologian Jürgen Moltmann of the University of Tübingen, found commonalities between Confucianism and Christianity. For instance, Confucius’s famous quote, “Do not do to others what you don’t want to be done to you,” is almost a perfect mirror image of Jesus’s golden rule, “Do to others whatever you would have them do to you.”

Wang and Lin found some positive, though inconsistent economic effects from China’s other major faiths, including folk religion, Buddhism, Islam, and Taoism. (Confucianism was not included in their study, and is not counted as an official religion by the government.) They conclude that the implication is not for the country to favor one faith above another, but to “build a better-informed economics, and in the long run, better policy” (Wang and Lin 2014, 286).

While it is true that China continues to regulate religion more strictly than most other countries in the world, current conditions are freer and less restrictive than they were in the 1960s and 1970s. Perhaps just as China has radically deregulated its economy with successful outcomes, further deregulation of religion may be one way to help keep China’s economic miracle alive for decades to come.


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Yang, Mayfair. 2008. “China’s Religious Landscape.” Council on Foreign Relations, June 11.

Zhao, YuKong. 2013. The Chinese Secrets for Success. New York: Morgan James.

Zhao, YuKong. 2014. “What Drives China’s Success?” Forbes. Accessed December 15, 2014.

U.S. Faith Communities Contribute Significantly to Local and National Prosperity

22 Jul, 2017

by Brian J. Grim

Religion annually contributes nearly $1.2 trillion of socio-economic value to the U.S. economy, according to a September 2016 study my daughter, Melissa Grim, J.D., and I published in the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion.

  • — That is equivalent to being the world’s 15th largest national economy, putting it ahead of about 180 other countries.
  • — It’s more than the annual revenues of the world’s top 10 tech companies, including Apple, Amazon and Google.
  • — And it’s also more than 50% larger than that of the annual global revenues of America’s 6 largest oil and gas companies.

So – you might say – that represents a lot of spiritually inspired fuel being pumped into the U.S. economy.

Religion does play a unique role in the socio-economic behaviors of Americans. For example, adults who are highly religious are significantly more likely than those who are less religious to report they did volunteer work and made donations to the poor in the past week, according to the Pew Research Center.

unique-religious-impactAs I’ll explain, the contributions of religion to American society fall into three general categories:

  • — $418 billion from religious congregations
  • — $303 billion from other religious institutions
  • — $437 billion from faith-based, faith-related or faith-inspired businesses

All these figures come from a careful analysis of survey and financial data from a wide range of national sources detailed in the research article in the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion, including:

  • — National Congregations Study
  • — Religious Congregations and Membership Study
  • — Private School Universe Survey
  • — Institution of Education Sciences
  • — Becker’s Hospital Review
  • — Revenue reports of faith-based health organizations, charities & businesses
  • — Faith-related business data by Oxford University’s Said Business School Professor Theodore Roosevelt Malloch
  • — Congregational “halo effect” analysis by University of Pennsylvania Professor Ram Cnaan
  • — World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the Role of Faith

religion-valued-at-over-one-trillionCongregations contribute $418 billion to the American economy each year.

  • — This comes from more than 344,000 congregations representing hundreds of different denominations and religions.
  • — By way of context, this number represents 26 congregations for every one Starbucks in the United States. So you’d have to pass 26 places of worship in order to find your first Starbucks brew.
  • — Unlike a coffee that has one basic service, these congregations provide 1.5 million different types of social and community service programs.

Congregations have four main avenues of socio-economic impact:

  • — The local spending and operations of congregations themselves
  • — Primary and secondary schools attached to local congregations
  • — The Magnet effect of attracting additional activity to the local community
  • — And the value of the impact all these activities have on individuals

Each year congregations spend $84 billion on their operations ranging from paying hundreds of thousands of personnel, to paying for goods and service as diverse as flowers, sounds systems, maintenance, and utilities. Almost all being spent right in the local community.

Schools attached to congregations employ 420,000 full time teachers and train 4.5 million students each year. By comparison this is the same number as the total population of Ireland or New Zealand.

Congregations are like magnets attracting economic activity ranging from weddings, as I’ve already mentioned and can give personal detail on, to lectures, congresses, and even tourism. For instance, 120,000 congregations report that people visit them to view their art and architecture. Here are just a few examples….

Finally, and most importantly, it’s what congregations do in their communities that makes the biggest socio-economic contribution. These programs impact individuals and families in a variety of important ways.

For example:

  • — Congregations provide 130,000 alcohol recovery programs such as The Saddleback Church “Celebrate Recovery” program that has helped over 27,000 individuals over the past 25 years.
  • — Congregations provide 120,000 programs to help the unemployed. For example, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has employment service centers in each of their stakes across the country (and across the world), for that matter.

Some of this work runs counter to stereotypes some may have about religious groups. For instance,

  • — Nearly 26,000 congregations are engaged in some form of active ministry to help people living with HIV-AIDS. That makes one HIV-AIDS ministry for every 46 people who are HIV positive. Just this past weekend on 9/11, under the sponsorship of Walgreen’s and the “First Ladies” (pastors’ wives) of Chicago, nearly 50 Chicago churches hosted free screening for HIV and other diseases.
  • — In fact, the data show that congregations overwhelmingly include a society-building, outward community focus, with over 320,000 congregations helping to recruit volunteers for programs outside their walls, to non-religious groups, ranging from Big Brothers and Big Sisters to the United Way and the American Red Cross.

I’d like to briefly tell you the story of how a congregational school impacts individuals who then impact the community for good. St. Benedict’s Prep readies 530 mostly poor, mostly minority boys for college and beyond. In an area where public schools are working hard just to keep young men from ending up in gangs, in jail or dead, St. Benedict’s sends 95% of its graduates to college, including a sizable number to Ivy League schools.

And graduates, such as Uriel Burwell, return to make an impact. Upon graduating from Drew University, Uriel returned to his childhood neighborhood to build 50 new affordable houses, rehabilitate more than 30 homes and attracted more than $3 million funding to build additional affordable homes and apartments in the area.

Religious Institutions: If we extend our view beyond what happens at local congregations and schools, we can find tens of thousands of other religiously-affiliated charities, health care facilities, and institutions of higher learning also doing these sorts of good works every day. These add another $303 billion of socio-economic impact to the US economy each year.

These includes:

  • — Charities such as the Knights of Columbus whose 1.5 million members respond to disasters and other human needs
  • — Health care services such as provided by the Adventist Health Systems which employ 78,000 people in 46 hospitals
  • — Institutions of higher education such as Brandeis University which is one of thousands of religiously-based colleges throughout the country
  • — I could go on for hours describing such as institutions as Islamic Relief USA, which responded to the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, by hiring 20 local staff and distributing 135,000 gallons of water during the height of the water crisis.
  • — Rather than continuing to give examples, I will now move to the third sector, business

Businesses: Religion related business add another $438 billion to the US economy each year. These include faith-based businesses, ranging from the Halal and Kosher food industries to religious media such as EWTN and the Christian Broadcast Network.

The largest group within this sector are not religious companies, per se, but are faith-inspired or religion-friendly companies. Tyson’s Foods, for example, employs a large force of chaplains for their multi-religious workforce.

Across the country there are associations of CEOs who seek to put the moral and ethical teachings of their faith to practice in their business. One such association is C12 with over 2,500 members, some of whom have business worth billions of dollars.

I’d like to end with a surprising example – an example showing how one American CEO, motivated by his faith, has started a company in Mozambique that not only stocks the shelves of America’s major food stores – from Giant and Wegmans to Whole Foods and H.E.B. – but empowers tens of thousands of people. His innovative business model is based on what he calls a “reverse tithe” – where 90% of profits go back into the local community. That means many American consumers are participating in a faith endeavor, perhaps unaware.


Religion: Business’s Next Big Issue to Navigate

22 Jul, 2017

by Brian J. Grim

Religious discrimination cases in the workplace have more than doubled over the past two decades. In 2016, there were 3,825 religion-based charges filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) compared less than half that number (1,709 ) in 1997.

Ignoring religious discrimination can be costly for a company, as clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch found when the EEOC took a case against them to the U.S. Supreme Court. The justices decided 8-to-1 that the company violated civil rights law by failing to accommodate a job applicant who wore a hijab. The millions spent to fight the case by Abercrombie & Fitch, plus many more dollars in lost revenue due to bad publicity, are part of the story of a company whose stocks are today at a 17-year low. While the case may not have caused the company’s plummeting share prices, it certainly didn’t help.

While not all cases taken to the EEOC were found to have merit, the steady increase of religion-based complaints shown in the chart is one sign among several that religion is the next big issue businesses must navigate.

By way of comparison, charges of LGBT-based discrimination, which have also been on the rise, numbered 1,768 in 2016, fewer than half the number of religious discrimination complaints.

While the corporate world has paid significant attention to LGBT issues with most corporations rolling out major plans to address discrimination based on sexual orientation, there are very few corporations – if any – paying equal attention to discrimination based on employee’s religion or belief.

Prevalence of Religious Discrimination in the Workplace

Indeed, the EEOC figures on religious discrimination in the workplace do not by themselves indicate the extent of the problem. More than one-in-three (36%) American workers report experiencing or witnessing workplace religious discrimination, according to a 2013 Tanenbaum survey, What American Workers Really Think about Religion.

Nearly half of non-Christian workers (49%) report experiencing or witnessing religious non-accomodation at work. White evangelical workers (48%) are equally as likely to report experiencing or witnessing religious non-accommodation at work. And two-in-five (40%) atheists also report experiencing or witnessing religious non-accomodation.

Less than half of all workers surveyed report that their companies have the following key policies related to religious diversity: 1) flexible work hours to permit religious observance or prayer (44%); 2) materials explaining the company’s policy on religious discrimination (42%); 3) a policy to allow employees to “swap holidays” (21%); and 4) programs to teach employees about religious diversity (14%).

And all this is bad for business. The Tanenbaum survey found that 41% of workers at companies without clear processes for handling employee complaints – including religious discrimination complaints – say they are looking for a new job where they would be happier. This is nearly twice the rate as workers who say their companies do have clear processes (22%). Likewise, 32% of workers at companies without materials explaining the company’s policy on religious discrimination report that they are looking for a new job, significantly higher than workers at companies that offer these materials (25%).

Morale is higher in companies that provide flexible hours for religious observance. In such companies, 13% say that they do not look forward to coming to work, compared with 28% of workers at companies that do not provide this flexibility (13%) – more than a twofold difference.

Global Rise of Religion

For those who are not personally active in religion, as are a growing number of people in some western societies, it may come as a surprise that the growth of religion is outpacing secular populations by a very wide margin. Between 2010 and 2050, the growth of religious populations worldwide is projected to be 23 times larger than the growth of religiously unaffiliated populations, as pointed out in a study done for the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the Role of Faith.

During this period, the number of people affiliated with a religion is expected to grow by 2.3 billion, from 5.8 billion in 2010 to 8.1 billion in 2050. By contrast, the number of people unaffiliated with any religion (including those who say their religion is “nothing in particular” as well as self-identifying agnostics and atheists) is projected to increase by only 0.1 billion, from 1.13 billion in 2010 to 1.23 billion in 2050. Also, in terms of population shares, this is significantly lower than the peak in the 1970s under communism when nearly one-in-five people worldwide were religiously unaffiliated, according to the World Religion Database (Brill).

What to Do?

The Religious Freedom & Business Foundation has compiled resources to help companies successfully navigate issues related to religion in the workplace and in society.

First and foremost, research shows that when freedom of religion and belief are respected in societies, they are more peaceful and prosperous.

The same principle works within companies. Accordingly, a company’s first step in successfully dealing with religious issues is to be in support of freedom of religion and belief in the workplace and in the societies where they operate.

The Pledge

For instance, the Corporate Pledge in Support of Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) — which supports religious diversity and freedom in the workplace — sends two clear messages to current and prospective employees: (1) You can work here without changing who you are; and (2) the company respects all employees and will not favor certain employees over others … and that’s good for the business of all.

The FoRB Pledge is 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.

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.

Download a 2-page flyer on the Pledge

And second, it is clear that nondiscrimination on the basis of religion or belief and religious accommodation are good for business.  Businesses need to have clear policies on religious nondiscrimination and accommodation. Suggested policies are below.

Employee Policy

Recommended language for a Company’s HR policies:

Discrimination on the Basis of Religion or Belief. [Name of Company] is an equal opportunity employer, and prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion or belief. This prohibition on religious discrimination applies to all aspects of employment including, without limitation, recruitment, interviewing, hiring, training, job assignments, promotions, demotions, compensation, benefits, transfers, terminations, layoffs, firing, recalls, tuition assistance, and social and recreational programs.

It is the responsibility of every employee to strictly comply with this policy. This policy prohibits unlawful harassment of any kind, including jokes, slurs, offensive gestures, and bullying on the basis of religion or sincerely held beliefs. Furthermore, supervisors should allow religious expression among employees to the same extent that they allow other types of personal expression that are not harassing or disruptive.

Any employee who feels that he or she has been treated contrary to this policy, including any harassment by company personnel or work-related harassment by any other person, should contact his or her supervisor, any member of the Human Resources department or the Employee Relations office. Any employee who is found to have violated this policy shall be subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment. [Name of Company] will not retaliate against any employee for filing a complaint and will not tolerate retaliation by management, employees, or co-workers.

Religious Accommodation. [Name of Company] respects the religious beliefs and practices of all employees and will provide, upon written request, a reasonable accommodation. A reasonable accommodation is one that does not create an undue hardship on the company’s business.

Requesting a Religious Accommodation. An employee whose religious beliefs or practices conflict with his or her job, work schedule, or with [Company Name]’s policy or practice on dress and appearance, or with other aspects of employment, and who seeks a religious accommodation must submit a written request for a reasonable accommodation to the company’s human resources department. The written request will identify the type of religious conflict that exists.

Providing Religious Accommodation. The human resources department will evaluate the request considering whether a work conflict exists and whether an accommodation is available that is reasonable and that would not create an undue hardship on [Company Name]’s business. Depending on the type of conflict and suggested accommodation, the human resources department may confer with the employee’s supervisor. The human resources department and employee will meet to discuss the request and decision on an accommodation within thirty (30) days of the employee’s request. If the employee accepts the proposed religious accommodation, the human resources department and/or the employee’s supervisor will implement the decision. If the employee rejects the proposed accommodation, he or she may appeal in accordance with the company’s general grievance policy and procedure.

External Policies

Possible language for a Company’s corporate social responsibility policies:

[Name of Company] is committed to treating every person with dignity and respect. No matter the religion or belief, the Company recognizes and promotes the economic value and social benefits of robust religious diversity and liberty.

In its interactions with suppliers and customers, including without limitation the decision to do business with such, [Name of Company] does not discriminate on the basis of religion or belief. The Company emphasizes the need for ethical working conditions for those within the Company’s supply chain. The Company encourages its suppliers to enact their own protections against religious discrimination and harassment.

In the larger community, [Name of Company] supports governments and organizations that protect religious liberty. Societies in which human rights are respected are more stable and provide a better environment for business. Businesses whether operating outside their country of origin or at home may have the opportunity to promote and help raise standards in countries where protection of human rights issues is insufficient, especially in ways that are strategically relevant to its core business.

Click here for all corporate documents on supporting freedom of religion or belief.

Business: A powerful force supporting interfaith understanding, religious liberty and peace

19 Jul, 2017

Brian Grim, July 23, 2017

Comments to Cumberland Lodge’s Emerging International Leaders Programme on Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB). The programme equips future leaders and opinion formers with the skills and insight necessary to drive debate, influence policy and build a powerful global network.

I suspect the thought that I am going to share today will be new to some. The thought is simple. It’s that business can be a powerful force supporting interfaith understanding, religious liberty and peace.

This is possible because business is at the crossroads of culture, commerce and creativity. Businesses bring people together for a common purpose – be it making a product or providing a service – that transcends cultural and religious identities and unites people in a common enterprise where differences give way to shared purpose.

Let me quote someone who was not especially friendly to religion, that helps make the point. Voltaire observed: “Take a view of the Royal Exchange in London, a place more venerable than many courts of justice, where the representatives of all nations meet for the benefit of mankind. There the Jew, the [Muslim], and the Christian transact together, as though they all professed the same religion, and give the name of infidel to none but bankrupts.”

To begin, let’s together watch the first of a number of short videos I’ll show today that demonstrate this social phenomenon where the marketplace brings people together. It’s a video from Lebanon, the only country in the world that celebrates Annunciation Day (March 25) as a national Islamo-Christian holiday. In the marketplace there is neither Jew, nor Muslim nor Christian – these differences fall away.

Of course, this video also demonstrates the powerful force the entertainment, music and film business can have on supporting interfaith understanding, religious liberty and peace. Although it wasn’t fully clear, the artist, Tania Kassis, is singing Ave Maria in concert with the adhan أَذَان‎‎, the Muslim call to prayer. Here she is performing the same song in concert.

So, what I will endeavor to do today is argue convincingly that matters of faith and religious liberty are not just in the interests of people of faith, but they are in the interests of everyone in society, including – as I will demonstrate – business. I will also endeavor to demonstrate that business is a powerful force supporting interfaith understanding, religious liberty and peace. I will demonstrate these points by looking at several interconnected concepts:

  1.  1) Faith – religious and otherwise – matters to the economy and to business
  2.  2) Business is a powerful force supporting religious liberty, interfaith understanding and peace

1) Faith – religious and otherwise – matters to the economy and to business

Reports of the death of organized religion have been exaggerated. According to recent research my foundation did for the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the Role of Religion, the growth of religious populations worldwide is projected to be 23 times larger than the growth of the unreligious between 2010 and 2050.

The research report Changing religion, changing economies has profound implications for the global economy. For example, today seven of the G8 nations have Christian-majority populations. But by 2050 only one of the leading economies is projected to have a majority Christian population – the United States. The other mega economies in 2050 are projected to include a country with a Hindu majority (India), a Muslim majority (Indonesia), and two with exceptionally high levels of religious diversity (China and Japan).

While the impact of more diverse religion is on the rise on a global scale. Faith, itself, is an important element of the global economy. For instance, faith in the economy, as measured by the monthly consumer confidence index, is viewed as a key indicator of the economy’s overall health. But what about religious faith – might it also matter for the economy?

Wells Fargo recently identified four market transformations they expect in 2015. The first three relate to global economic recovery and technology. But the fourth is that business will shift from primarily being about “making money” to being about “doing good”.

Socially responsible business is certainly a theme championed by religious leaders, including Pope Francis, Sojourner’s Jim Wallis, the Dalai Lama and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Recent studies suggest that faith can positively impact the economy through at least two distinct vectors: ethos and engagement.

Ethos of the company

Worldwide, a number of companies adhere to a religious or belief-based ethos. For instance, Sanitarium, the most popular breakfast cereal company in Australia, is owned and operated by the Seventh Day Adventist Church. As a practical demonstration of the Church’s doctrinal dedication to health and well-being, Sanitarium is a South Pacific leader in producing healthy products and in organizing community programmes to encourage healthy lifestyles.

One such Sanitarium programme is their popular nationwide TRYathlons, which inspire children to get moving in a friendly and supportive environment with an emphasis on enjoying the experience as part of an active lifestyle rather than competition.

In fact, breakfast cereals in general have Adventist roots. The parent company of Sanitarium was Sanitas, the original company set up by then-Adventists John Harvey and W.K. Kellogg to manufacture toasted corn flakes as a healthier alternative to the greasy American breakfasts of the day. Yes, and now you know the religious roots of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes!

Another example of a Christian inspiration for its business ethos is Sunshine Nuts in Mozambique. This is an example showing how one Evangelical Christian CEO, motivated by his faith, has started a company in Mozambique that not only stocks the shelves of America’s major food stores – from Giant and Wegmans to Whole Foods and H.E.B. – but empowers tens of thousands of people. His innovative business model is based on what he calls a “reverse tithe” – where 90% of profits go back into the local community. That means many American consumers are participating in a faith endeavor, perhaps unaware.

Such examples are not just limited to the Christian tradition. Some case studies set out in a new book, Practical Wisdom in Management: Business Across Spiritual Traditions, documents the ethos in each of 10 different religious and humanist traditions. These range from the humanism guiding Mondelēz International (formerly Kraft Foods) and the Buddhist influence on Whole Foods, to the Zoroastrian ethos of Tata Group, India’s largest conglomerate with operations on six continents and in more than 80 countries.

Corporate Engagement

Recognizing and drawing on the religiously affiliated identities of employees can help companies successfully navigate challenges and seize new opportunities. A study from the UN Global Compact Business for Peace platform and the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation shows how businesses, often at the initiative of people of faith within companies, can promote interfaith understanding and peace. And it is happening in countries as diverse as Nigeria, Brazil, Israel, the Philippines and Indonesia, as well as in the tense border between India and Pakistan.

In 2013, based on suggestions from employees, the Coca-Cola Company launched a project to promote understanding and dialogue by installing two “small world machines” in New Delhi, India, and Lahore, Pakistan, areas where religious tensions run high. Long separated by a border that has seen a number of wars, Indians and Pakistanis were able to use the machines’ live video feeds and large 3D touch screens to speak to and even “touch” the person on the other side. People on both sides of the border, who had never met before, exchanged peace signs, touched hands and danced together.

While some are skeptical that Coca-Cola’s campaign will have any long-term impact on relations between India and Pakistan, the company believes it is a step in the right direction, and it appears to be selling more of their product.

2) Business is a powerful force supporting religious liberty, interfaith understanding and peace

In September 2013, former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon set up the Business for Peace platform to harness the largely untapped potential of businesses to bring peace while they grow their bottom lines. Because businesses are at the crossroads of culture, commerce and creativity, they have the resources and incentive to make the world more peaceful.

That’s the theory, but what about the practice?

A set of case studies published by the UN Global Compact and the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation shows that the theory has some legs. Businesses in various parts of the world are addressing prejudices that feed violent extremism and terrorism. Although no single initiative is a magic bullet to end all such violence, taken together they offer a glimpse into the peacemaking potential of business. The initiatives include:

Using marketing to cross borders: companies can make positive contributions to peace by mobilizing advertising campaigns that bring people of various faiths and backgrounds together, as WE’VE ALREADY seen in Coca-Cola’s Small World campaigns linking people in Pakistan and India through vending machines equipped with live video feeds.

Rewarding intercultural understanding: cross-cultural dialogue and cooperation is an essential part of the daily operations for multinational companies, such as BMW. In collaboration with the UN Alliance of Civilizations, the BMW Group offers an annual award for organizations that create innovative approaches to intercultural understanding, including interfaith understanding and peace. Among organizations that have won this award is a tour company in the Middle East, which offers new ideas to build bridges and bring cultures together through collaborative Muslim-Jewish tourism in the Holy Lands.

Supporting social entrepreneurs: the business environment provides neutral ground for religious differences to give way to shared concerns of enterprise and economic development. For example, Brazilian social entrepreneur Jonathan Berezovsky, through his company, Migraflix, helps immigrants and refugees start enterprises that empower them and show their value to the local community.

Boosting workforce diversity: when businesses are sensitive to the religious and cultural issues around them, they not only make reasonable accommodations for faith in the workplace, but they can also address difficult unmet social needs. Businesses in Indonesia did this by organizing a mass wedding for interfaith couples who had lived without legal status and with no ready means to become legitimately wed. By obtaining legal status, thousands of interfaith couples can now access the public health service, obtain education for their children, and have expanded opportunities for employment.

I should also mention that the businessman behind the initiative is Y.W. Junardy, a Catholic business leader in Muslim-majority Indonesia.

It’s fair to say that the potential of business to support interfaith understanding, religious liberty and peace is largely unreported, unstudied and untapped. More research and incentivizing programmes would help change that.

First, we need to have a fuller picture of the range, impact and effectiveness of business initiatives to support interfaith understanding and peace.

And second, we need to increase positive incentivization of “double bottom line” enterprises that do social good and make a profit. Possibilities include giving a higher profile to the global programmes like the Global Business & Interfaith Peace Awards, a partnership initiative between my foundation and the United Nations – in fact, most of the business leaders I’m highlighting today were finalists in our 2016 Awards given out during the Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Increasing such knowledge and incentives can inspire and give resources to a new generation of socially conscious business entrepreneurs and peacemakers.

Let me introduce you to several other finalists for the inaugural 2016 Global Business & Interfaith Peace Awards – business leaders from across the global who are advancing interfaith understanding, religious liberty and peace. The religious, geographic and business-type diversity of these businesses and leaders shows that the values of interfaith understanding, religious liberty and peace have universal appeal.

They are doing this in four general ways: through their (a) core business, (b) social investment and philanthropy, (c) advocacy and public policy engagement, and (d) partnerships and collective action.

(a) Core Business. A company can advance interfaith understanding, religious liberty and peace through their core business. This means championing interfaith understanding, religious liberty and peace through a company’s core business operations, including internal procedures, human resources hiring practices, training, product/service development, sourcing policies, supply chains, as well as the development of products and services that promote interfaith understanding and peace.

Brittany Underwood, Founder & President of AKOLA in Uganda and the USA is an example.

(b) Social Investment and Philanthropy. A company can advance interfaith understanding, religious liberty and peace through social investment and philanthropy. This includes financial and in-kind contributions, and strategic social investment support for NGOs, UN and/or multilateral agencies or directly to affected communities and/or contribution of functional expertise through volunteering efforts.

Fouad M. Makhzoumi | Executive Chairman-CEO, Future Pipe Industries Group Limited, UAE & Lebanon is an example of using his business know-how and resources to erase the conditions that can feed extremism. He’s also been a speaker at the Rimini Meeting nearby.

(c) Advocacy and Public Policy Engagement. A company can advance interfaith understanding, religious liberty and peace through advocacy and public policy engagement. This includes fostering social cohesion and inter-group dialogue and relationship-building in the workplace, marketplace and local community.

Kathy Ireland | Founder & President, kathy ireland Worldwide, USA & worldwide (Iraq, Sudan) is an example of how a business leader advances interfaith understanding, religious liberty and peace through advocacy and public policy engagement through her support of an NGO as well as direct policy engagement.

(d) Partnerships and Collective Action. A company can advance interfaith understanding, religious liberty and peace through partnerships and collective action. This can be done by joining forces with Governments, UN entities, civil society organizations and/or other businesses to act collectively to promote interfaith understanding and peace and forge long-term partnerships for local or regional economic and sustainable development.

Frank Fredericks | Founder & CEO of Mean Communications, used his communications firm to do just this.

Looking Forward:

In a world that is more interconnected than any time in history, religious and intercultural tensions abound. Religious hostilities are sweeping the globe, disrupting societies and economies. However, there are those who are willing to step up and act as agents of change. During the 2016 Rio Paralympics, global business leaders were honored for their innovative work in addressing this problem. From Israeli tour businesses to Chinese Media companies to large Indonesian conglomerates, business leaders all over the world are doing their part to make the world a safer, stronger, and more open place. Come meet these business men and women and new awardees who are overcoming religious intolerance and discrimination at the 2018 Global Business & Interfaith Peace Symposium and Awards in Seoul, Korea, on March 7-8, held during the 2018 PyeongChang Paralympics.

For more information on attending or to nominate a business leader, visit