Why Standing for Religious Freedom Around the World is Good for Business and the Global Economy
After leading Pew Research Centerâ€™s work on global religious restrictions for nearly eight years, Brian J. Grim left Pew in early February to launch theÂ Religious Freedom & Business Foundation. Why the switch? The stats man noticed a correlation. Where religious freedom is restricted, jobs and economic growth often are too.
Pewâ€™s latest report in January showed thatÂ 5.3 billion peopleâ€”76 percent of the worldâ€™s populationâ€”live under harsh religious restrictions. Grim is now working to convince businesses and governments that they can help bring that number down while bringing revenue up.
Fresh off a trip to Brazil where he launched the new foundation, Grim discussed the state of religious restrictions in several key countries and described why businesses should care about religious freedom. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Brian Pellot: What motivated you to leave the Pew Research Centerâ€™s Forum on Religion & Public Life and establish the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation earlier this month?
Brian J. Grim: For the past decade Iâ€™ve been measuring the rising tide of restrictions on religious freedom around the world. Iâ€™m always asked where the success stories are and what can be done to roll back the tide. As a data person, I saw that the business and sports communities were missing from the religious freedom field. I know how much religious freedom helps economic progress and how much it suffers without. Thatâ€™s one of the reasons I launched the foundation.
BP: More NGOs and governments seem to be paying attention to religious freedom issues. Why do you think that is? Is the same trend true in the business community?
BG: I think there are two things at play. First thereâ€™s definitely been an increase in religious restrictions and hostilities around the world. Secondly thereâ€™s more data out there documenting these restrictions and examining motivations behind them.
The world is filled with diverse people that look at things with different glasses depending on their interests. But religious restrictions and hostilities have an impact on all spheres of life. They impact human rights, economies and national security.Â Business people donâ€™t usually discuss religion and business in the same sentence. But itâ€™s one of the biggest problems facing economies.
Under Pakistanâ€™s blasphemy law you can be put to death for suggesting something derogatory toward the divine. There have been cases of one business accusing another of blasphemy to undermine its rival. In Egypt, the struggle between Islamists, non-Islamists and religious minorities is driving away tourists, businesses and foreign investors, which hurts the economy.
A Turkish business leader told me that half of the countryâ€™s women wear headscarves, but only a fraction of them have jobs. They donâ€™t get hired because itâ€™s perceived as being bad for business. Theyâ€™re cutting half of the labor market out of the picture. Once people see these connections, I think theyâ€™ll start to see how religious freedom benefits businesses.
SOURCE:Â Brian PellotÂ
Religion News Service