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Monthly Archives: September 2014

Pew Research work on global restrictions to continue

22 Sep, 2014

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Global Religious Restrictions Project Transition

Since 2006, the Pew Research Center has analyzed the extent to which governments and societies around the world impinge on religious beliefs and practices. This work has gained a large, international audience and will continue as part of the Center’s Religion & Public Life Project.

The methods used by Pew Research to measure restrictions on religion evolved from a study that Brian J. Grim, Ph.D., and Roger Finke, Ph.D., previously conducted at Penn State University’s Association of Religion Data Archives. From 2006 through January 2014, Dr. Grim was a senior researcher in religion and world affairs and director of cross-national data at the Pew Research Center. In that capacity, he and other members of the Pew Research staff refined the methodology and published five major research reports on global religious restrictions and hostilities.

On February 1, 2014, Dr. Grim is leaving the Pew Research Center to become the founding president of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, where he encourages businesses to consider religious freedom issues as they choose and make investments. While Dr. Grim may cite the Center’s research, any commentaries or analyses produced by him in his new capacity are his own. The Pew Research Center does not take positions on policy issues.

Starting in March 2014, Peter S. Henne, Ph.D., will return to the Pew Research Center to lead the study of global religious restrictions and hostilities. From 2009 to 2012, Dr. Henne was a research analyst at the Pew Research Center, working closely with Dr. Grim on the religious restrictions study. For the past year, he has run a data coding and analysis project at the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) at the University of Maryland. Dr. Henne is a graduate of Vassar College and received his doctorate in government from Georgetown University.

Press Release: Brian Grim becomes Foundation president

22 Sep, 2014
After establishing and leading the widely acclaimed research on global religious restrictions at the Pew Research Center, Brian Grim will leave the Center on Feb. 1 to become the founding president of theReligious Freedom & Business Foundation.*

Grim will launch the new global foundation at a series of public events and planning meetings in Brazil.

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The Foundation educates the global business community about how religious freedom is good for business, and engages the business community in joining forces with government and non-government organizations in promoting respect for freedom of religion or belief. It envisions a future of innovative and sustainable economies where religious freedom and diversity are respected.

The Foundation’s work focuses on game-changing global initiatives in an increasingly religious world:

  • Business, Faith & Freedom Global Forums at World Expos (Milan 2015 & Astana 2017) that showcase faith’s role in inspiring successful business innovations that improve the world
  • Religious Freedom & Business Global Awards presented in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, the host city of the Olympic Games, for best business initiatives to improve respect for religious freedom
  • Sustainable and empowering businesses for religious minorities sponsored by investors who obtain positive financial and social returns on their investment
  • Executive training, workshops and symposiums on ways to implement policies that promote innovative and sustainable businesses where religious freedom and diversity are respected

The Foundation is the first organization dedicated to educating businesses about why religious freedom will enable them to be more productive and successful, and how they can effectively incorporate religious freedom in their strategic business plans for the benefit of their stake holders, their employees and society.

As Brian begins this new global endeavor, the work he started at Pew Research will continue.

Follow Brian on Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook, and at his Weekly Number Blog

* The Foundation is a non-partisan charitable organization working with business people, academics, government officials and community leaders from multiple faiths (or of none) to accomplish its mission. The Foundation is a registered corporation and is applying for IRS recognition as a non-profit 501(c)3 organization in the USA.

Blog: Religious restrictions and hostilities hurt business: Pakistan and Egypt

22 Sep, 2014

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The typical government response to religious hostilities is to tighten restrictions on religion. But, contrary to common perceptions, a solid body of empirical and historical research shows that piling on additional restrictions does not ensure peace and stability, but rather can fuel additional grievances. Indeed, research shows that the price of denying religious freedoms is far higher than protecting them.

Specifically, as social hostilities involving religion rise, government restrictions on religion rise, leading to more violence, setting up a religious violence cycle that become difficult to break, with direct adverse effects on business, foreign investment and world economies. Two examples help demonstrate how religious restrictions and hostilities are bad for business:

(1) Blasphemy Laws. Pakistan’s speech-restricting blasphemy laws often sow discord rather than the purported aim of promoting peace, as two high ranking government officials were recently assassinated for merely questioning the laws. These laws also have a direct negative impact on businesses. There are “recorded instances of business or personal rivals accusing each other of blasphemy to extract revenge for a past grievance. The blasphemy laws in Pakistan have not only been used in cases where individuals have been accused of specific blasphemies, they have also been used to ban websites like Facebook, YouTube, and Wikipedia because of content that would be considered sacrilegious” Tarin and Uddin 2013, p. 19).

(2) Egypt: Religious Violence Cycle & the Economy. The religious violence cycle is playing out today in Egypt in the back-and-forth social and political struggle between the supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and the coalition opposing them. Of course, this struggle directly impacts the important tourist industry, but it also drives away foreign investment. And this has adverse effects on foreign economies.

To end the cycle of religious violence and its negative impact, observers of post-Mubarak Egypt concluded that all factions in society – including Islamists – must feel that their voices are heard and that “special attention should be paid to the economy …” (Shaikh and Ghanem 2013, p. 2).

Also, as the role of women is debated within Islam and between Muslims in Egypt and countries ranging from Morocco and Iraq to Pakistan and Indonesia, religious restrictions on women also impact economic outcomes as the future health of economies is related to the economic opportunities afforded women. Furthermore, not only do religious restrictions have adverse effects on the economy, but a poor economy can reinforce religious intolerance, adding to the religious violence cycle. And perhaps most telling, as Egypt’s religion-related tensions have grown, Egypt’s young entrepreneurs desire to move outside the country rather put their hopes in their home.

New foundation promotes religious freedom as good for business – Deseret News

22 Sep, 2014

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New foundation promotes religious freedom as good for business (Matthew Brown, Deseret News National Edition)

For more than a decade, Brian Grim has gathered and analyzed data about where religion is practiced and suppressed around the world.

His research shows a world where 84 percent of the population says it is religious, but where restrictions and hostilities against the freedom to practice one’s faith are rising. In 2012, the percentage of people living in countries where social hostilities and government restrictions against religion that are considered extreme climbed to 76 percent — a six-year high. …

Read more at http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865595464/New-foundation-promotes-religious-freedom-as-good-for-business.html#PHsRK8GUa00kODCC.99

Brazil Vice President Temer Supports Global Awards

22 Sep, 2014
Religious Freedom & Business Foundation launched it’s new work that includes a global awards competition for businesses to demonstrate how they advance religious freedom in their companies, societies and the world at large. The Global Awards competition was advanced in a series of high level meetings with government, business, societal and religious leaders in Brazil. Meetings also included Brazilian Olympic athletes.

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The Religious Freedom & Business Foundation is changing tenor of the discussion on religious freedom – away from naming and shaming and towards finding solutions. Indeed, the flip side of the story is where solutions lie.

A recent Pew Research study documented that in more than three-quarters of countries, government and social initiatives are aiming to address rising religious restrictions and hostilities.

For instance, Brazil – a country now experiencing what is arguably the most dramatic peaceful religious change in world history (mass conversion from Catholicism largely to other Protestant faiths) – is emerging as a global innovator in rolling back the rising tide of global religious restrictions and hostilities that has swept the globe. (See more on religious freedom in Brazil.)

Just last week, planning began for a bold new global awards initiative to recognize businesses with successful initiatives to advance respect for religious freedom and diversity in their companies, societies and the world at large. Those expressing enthusiastic support include Brazil’s Vice President Michel Temer, Senator Magno Malta and Brazil’s National Secretary for Human Rights, Biel Rocha, in addition to business leaders, human rights and interfaith organizations, as well as leading clergy, including Rio de Janeiro’s Archbishop Orani João Tempesta.


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Religious Freedom & Business Foundation president speaks at UN

22 Sep, 2014
ddressing a formal meeting at the United Nations in New York, Brian Grim, said that his studies show that where respect for religious freedom and diversity flourishes, so do economies and societies. 

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NEW YORK – Last week, Religious Freedom & Business Foundation president, Brian Grim, spoke at the United Nations in New York. During the meeting, world religious leaders called for religious believers of the Earth to unite against the increasing misuse of religion by extremists for hostile and violent purposes.

The conference, titled “World Interfaith Harmony: Vital for Peace and Development, was co- sponsored with the United Nations Alliance of Civilization (AOC).

“The harsh fact is that turmoil exists in a number of countries around the world,” stated H.E. Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, UN High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations, who delivered a keynote speech for the third annual observance of World Interfaith Harmony Week. “Radical notions embodying a distorted perspective of religion often fuel acts of violence. But why? The idea that religion could be used to justify violence is a contradiction in itself.”

Dr. William F. Vendley, President of the Committee of Religious NGOs at the United Nations, which co-sponsored the event said in his speech, “Today, we need to acknowledge that religion- related hostilities — harassment, intimidation and abuse —proliferate.”

However, Dr. Vendley, Secretary-General of Religions for Peace, the world’s largest and most representative multi-religious coalition, called interfaith harmony “perhaps the most powerful antidote to the rising tide of social hostility.”

The conference was held in the wake of a new and alarming report issued by the Pew Research Center, which found that the number of countries with religion-related terrorist violence has doubled over the past six years. “We religious believers must, first of all, acknowledge that our traditions are all too often being abused by extremists,” said Dr. Vendley. “Then, standing together across all religious differences, we must reject this abuse.”

However world religion leaders and experts said there is hope on the horizon.

Dr. Brian Grim, said that his studies show that where respect for religious freedom and diversity flourishes, so do economies and societies.

“The new promising players on the field are businesses, because it is in their interest —where religious freedom grows, so does business.”

“Religious freedom is good for business” discussed at high level events worldwide

22 Sep, 2014
Religious freedom’s contributions to global competitiveness, economic success and better business were discussed at high level events around the world over the past month, including in Brazil and Austria as well as at the United Nations, interfaith forums, a U.S. Capitol roundtable and the Canadian Embassy.

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In early February, planning began for a bold new global awards initiative to recognize businesses with successful initiatives to advance respect for religious freedom and diversity in their companies, societies and the world at large.

Those expressing enthusiastic support include Brazil’s Vice President Michel Temer, Senator Magno Malta, Labor Court President Flavio Cooper, and Brazil’s National Secretary for Human Rights, Biel Rocha.

Also expressing support were leading clergy, including Rio de Janeiro’s Archbishop Orani João Tempesta, as well as Olympic athletes, including the captain of Brazil’s national women (football) soccer team, Bruna Benitex, and national basketball all-star Lucas Cipolini (see photos).


Foundation president speaks in U.N., Italy, Brazil, Canada, Finland & Russia (and the U.S.)

22 Sep, 2014
Geneva, Switzerland: March 10 – Brian Grim, president of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, will speak during the opening days of the U.N. Human Rights Council.

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In Geneva, Grim will discuss the rising tide of religious restrictions and hostilities that have swept the world during the past decade and the socio-economic impact of this global crisis. The meeting is organized by the International Development Law Organization (IDLO). Other speakers include Ambassador Maurizio Enrico Luigi Serra (Italy); U.N. Special Rapporteurs Rita Izsák and Dr. Heiner Bielefeldt; Prof. Silvio Ferrari, University of Milan; Dr. Lyal Sunga and Irene Khan, Director-General, IDLO.

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Milan, Italy: March 11-13 – Foundation President Grim will meet at Milan University to continue planning for the Foundation’s 2015 Business, Faith & Freedom Global Forum to be held during the World Expo.

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Brasilia, Brazil: March 16-20 – Grim will continue planning for the Foundation’s 2016 Religious Freedom & Business Global Awards. Brazil’s Vice President Temer invited Grim to be part of the country’s religious freedom & diversity planning for the upcoming 2014 World Cup, and the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The Global Awards will take place in Rio, recognizing companies around the world with excellent initiatives to advance religious freedom in the workplace, society or the world at large.

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Washington, DC: March 24 – Grim will speak at a high level forum titled “Everybody’s Business: The Legal, Economic, and Political Implications of Religious Freedom,” organized by Georgetown University. Other speakers include Ken Starr, Baylor University, and Alan Dershowitz, Harvard Law School.

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Ottawa, Canada: March 25 – Grim will deliver a plenary address to the annual meeting of the Religious Liberty Partnership, which brings together leaders of religious freedom organizations worldwide to discuss latest trends and strategies. He will also meet with Canadian government officials interested in how business can advance religious freedom.

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New York, NY: April 2 – Grim will speak on his latest research on how the rising tide of religious restrictions impacts societies and economies as part of the Religion and Foreign Policy Conference Call series. The series engages religious and congregational leaders, scholars, and thinkers from across the country in cross-denominational conversations on global issues. This call would be on the record, and available afterwards on the website. For more information see: http://www.cfr.org/religion.

Upcoming events in Finland, Russia, the U.K. and Australia. Stay tuned …
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The Social and Economic Impact of Religious Intolerance

22 Sep, 2014
Brian J. Grim, President
Religious Freedom & Business Foundation

I have been asked to address three questions at this afternoon’s session (10 March 2014) at the UN Human Rights Council organized by the International Development Law Organization (IDLO) and hosted by the Italian Foreign Ministry:

  • What impact can religious intolerance have on societies (e.g. socio-economic development)?
  • How important is it to have good numbers – data – when trying to understand issues around freedom of religion or belief?
  • What does freedom of religion or belief actually look like in society? How can we recognize it?

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I. What impact can religious intolerance have on societies (e.g. socio-economic development)?

To answer this question, it is important to begin by recognizing that religious intolerance has a number of dimensions. Sources of religious intolerance, for instance, can be the actions or policies of governments and/or the actions or beliefs of individuals or groups in society. Targets of religious intolerance can include members of specific religions or religion in general, people who choose to change their religion or to have no religion at all, and even people randomly victimized by religion-related terror or armed conflict.

Research shows that the degree to which governments protect and respect such freedoms as communicating religious ideas in various media and converting from one religion to another, or to no faith at all, is also the degree to which societies are free from harassment of religious minorities, religiously biased hate crimes or terror, and sectarian violence.

The empirical research that establishes this connection has been called one of the most important discoveries in the study of freedom of religion or belief. Indeed, research has established that freedom of religion or belief, rather than being the source of religious hostilities, is instead the solution. When governments protect and respect freedom of religion or belief for all faiths, this reduces grievances that can lead to religious intolerance and violence.

Research also shows that not only are there fewer acts of religious intolerance when governments and societies protect and respect freedom of religion or belief, but there are also other positive social and economic dividends. These include greater respect for other important freedoms essential to a well-functioning liberal democracy such as freedom of the press, speech and assembly.

Perhaps of even more importance to some is that new research about to be published indicates that the main drivers of economic sustainability, that is indicators of global competitiveness, are stronger in countries where the government and civil society respect and protect freedom of religion or belief. For instance, more than twice the share of countries with high religious freedom are strong in innovation compared with countries with low religious freedom.

II. How important is it to have good numbers – data – when trying to understand issues around freedom of religion or belief?

I can answer this briefly because all of my comments so far have been based on a careful collection and analysis of numerical data on freedom of religion or belief. Without data to test the assertions I have made, I would be doing nothing more than sharing personal opinion. However, when opinions are informed by data, they enter the realm of facts that can be verified or disproven – and this is very important for any topic that can easily become buried beneath divergent worldviews or agendas.

I will add one new point about data. With data, it is possible to see whether religious intolerance is rising or falling – it’s rising, as shown in the excellent IDLO report. It can also help answer the essential question of how this rising tide of intolerance can be rolled back.

III. What does freedom of religion or belief actually look like in society? How can we recognize it?

I’ll answer this question in two ways. First, it looks a whole lot like Brazil, the country with the lowest government restrictions on religious freedom of the 25 most populous. The largest and most rapid religious shift has occurred over the past several decades in Brazil with no religious intolerance or violence. Not long ago, everyone in Brazil was Catholic, but today a rich pluralism has emerged with more than a third of the country converting to other faiths – predominantly evangelical and Pentecostal, but also to many other faiths including some having no faith. This ongoing, monumental and peaceful shift was supported by two things. First, the government remains largely neutral on matters of religion but fiercely guards and celebrates freedom of religion or belief. And second, the dominant faith, Roman Catholicism, also fiercely guards and celebrates freedom of religion or belief. And the latter is critical – rather than protecting their turf at any cost, the Catholic Church has embraced religious freedom and asks a very important question. What is it that we have not done that made so many people seek elsewhere for spiritual support? And what must we do to now meet those needs?

In conclusion, after studying freedom of religion or belief for decades and having lived and worked in Asia, the Middle East and Europe, I have seen that religious freedom is good for not only societies but also for economies. I also have seen that two very important constituencies are often missing from meetings like these. First, countries with success stories, like Brazil. And second, businesses, whose very self-interest would suggest they should be here.

As an initiative to bring such missing parties in, I’m happy to announce that my Foundation will be working with Brazilian businesses, the government civil society and religious groups to host in 2016 the first biennial Religious Freedom & Business Global Awards in Rio de Janeiro, the host city for the 2016 Summer Olympics. The awards will recognize businesses worldwide with the best initiatives to promote religious freedom and diversity in their companies, societies and the world at large, competing by “weight class” – multinationals, nationals, women-led companies and young entrepreneurial companies. These Global Awards will then move in 2018 to PyeongChang, South Korea, and in 2020 to Tokyo, both host cities for upcoming Olympics. The philosophy is simple – the approach incentivizes and rewards success.


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Stay up to date on the Foundation’s activities – get the Newsletter. Also, see my TEDx Talk for the global religious freedom situation.

The Ah-ha Moment – the connection of religious freedom and business

22 Sep, 2014
Brian J. Grim, President
Religious Freedom & Business Foundation
This Op-Ed was originally released at the Venn Institute.

Over lunch in downtown Washington DC, a Turkish trade representative puzzled, “We almost never put religion and business in the same sentence, so, what’s the connection between religious freedom and business?” Fair question, given that I was introducing him to the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation.

His ah-ha moment came about halfway through our meal, but for a different reason than mine had come.

We began by talking about different ways religious barriers inhibit financial cooperation between Muslim countries. For instance, one country’s sharia (Islamic law) board might consider a financial investment instrument acceptable while another country’s does not.

We also discussed attempts in Europe to restrict Islamic halal meats because of the purported ill treatment of animals in the slaughtering process. Of course, such restrictions similarly impact kosher businesses supplying meat for Jewish communities.

But, neither of these were his ah-ha moment.

We then talked about Pakistan where businesses have accused rivals of blasphemy – a capital offense – to undercut the competition or extract revenge. The blasphemy law has also been used to ban websites like Facebook, YouTube, and Wikipedia. And even questioning the blasphemy law is perilous, as two high-ranking government officials were recently assassinated for merely suggesting that they be overturned.

But his ah-ha moment came when we moved on to Egypt, where ongoing religion-related violence is not only sapping the important tourist industry, but driving young entrepreneurs from the labor market.

The loss of Egypt’s young entrepreneurs was his Ah-ha!

He recalled how until recently, it was illegal for Turkish women to wear headscarves in public jobs or even to attend public universities. While the bans on headscarves in Turkey have been lifted, ongoing employment discrimination persists against more religiously conservative women who don the headscarf. And the loss to the labor market is significant.

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By his estimates, as many as half of Turkish women today now don a headscarf but only 6% of them can find a job. “That’s a religious freedom and business problem,” he proclaimed. “How can Turkey hope to compete economically if half of women are essentially kept out of the labor market because of their religious dress,” he said, inviting me to Turkey to help them address the issue.

And this brings me to my ah-ha moment – conversations like this – not only with Muslim business people, but with people of multiple faiths as well as with people in high levels of government and civil leaders.

But, these conversations are driven by the research I did for well over the past decade.

For instance, in my book with Roger Finke, The Price of Freedom Denied (Cambridge 2011), we documented that religious freedom not only leads to less violence, but that it is also associated with a host of other socio-economic outcomes.

– See more at: Innovation in the Global Fight for Religious Freedom(Venn Institute)