A new analysis by The Weekly Number shows that religious hostilities are consistently more likely to occur in countries where governments restrict proselytizing than in countries without such restrictions. For instance, looking at Pew Research data, hostilities over proselytizing are five times more likely in countries with laws restricting proselytism than in countries with no such restrictions. Also, hostilities over conversions are more than four times as likely in countries with laws restricting proselytism as in countries without restrictions. (See data chart at the end.) 

These findings are notable because often the justification given for laws restricting proselytism is to prevent religious unrest. 
Brian Grim Religious FreedomMormon (LDS) missionaries in Samoa
Part of the unease with "proselytism" is that the term itself has taken on a negative connotation. In its neutral form, it simply means sharing one's faith with others in an attempt to convince them to join your faith or belief. In this way, it is like any discussion where one person tries to get another to see the truth of his or her position. 

But objections to proselytism sometimes stem from being associated in the minds of some with either unwelcome preaching or coercive argument. And in some cases, accusations of forced conversions or even purchased conversions are associated with the term proselytization. 

Certainly, coercion in matters of religion should be resolutely rejected. 

But there are non-coercive missionary endeavors that people may still find objectionable. For some, proselytism is viewed as an intrusion into matters that are personal or cultural. In that way, it might be like an advertisement or argument from a company or political party one finds disagreeable. As long as you can change the station or turn the television off, then presumably no harm, no foul.

One of the most common faces of proselytism are the 75,000 young Mormon men and women volunteering as missionaries throughout the world with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS). On the one hand, in conversations with many former Mormon missionaries, some point to experiencing negative reactions to their proselytizing mission espousing a restored Christianity. Certainly, many parents who send their children off on their two-year missions have a dose of apprehension for the reception their children might face. But overwhelmingly, LDS missionaries report positive experiences, and it's not uncommon for former missionaries to return to the places they served around the world later in life to do business or other forms of service. (For a Mormon perspective on their missionary work, see the last vignette of a missionary mom in the recent film, Meet the Mormons.) 

While Mormons might be a visible missionary force, the two largest religions - Christianity and Islam in their various forms - are proselytizing faiths fielding hundreds of thousands of missionaries. 

So, why might proselytizing be associated with lower religious hostilities? There are a number of plausible reasons, but I will name just three. First, religious hostilities tend to be highest when governments restrict religious freedom, which includes proselytism, as was established in my articles and book with Penn State professor Roger Finke. In The Price of Freedom Denied, we demonstrated that restrictions on religious freedom often accrue to the benefit of monopolistic religions and coercive governments. By contrast, when religious freedom is protected and people are free to persuade others of their beliefs, societies have a rich pluralism that gives space for moderate voices within religions. 

Second, proselytism adds to this pluralism and moderation by taking religion from the shadows where violent extremism tends to grow and putting it into the public spotlight. Indeed, as I have argued, it is important for people of various faiths to engage people at risk of extremist radicalization with other faith arguments. To the extent that violent extremism feeds on the lack of informed religious understanding, proselytizing is one mechanism through which diverse and arguably less violent forms of religion can be explored. To be clear, I'm not advocating proselytism as a strategy to counter violent extremism, but certainly few would disagree that people lured down that path of radical violence need to be converted to a more peaceful and productive perspective.

And third, research by political scientist Robert Woodberry demonstrates historically and statistically that proselytizing Protestants heavily influenced the rise and spread of stable democracy around the world. His recent article in the American Political Science Review shows that such missions were a crucial catalyst initiating the development and spread of religious liberty, mass education, mass printing, newspapers, voluntary organizations, and colonial reforms, thereby creating the conditions that made stable democracy more likely. In a similar way, as proselytizing missionaries encounter human need, they are often the people on the ground calling for response. This ranges from Southern Baptists helping to bring in disaster relief to Ismaili Muslim missionaries tied to the great humanitarian resources of the Aga Khan Development Network.  

What About Catholics

Brian Grim Pope Francis
Pope Francis caused quite a stir when he said that the Lord "has invited us to preach, not to proselytize."  To some, they may seem the same. But in his mind, they are apparently quite distinct. Citing Benedict XVI, he said that "the Church grows not to proselytize, but to attract." And this attraction, he said, comes from the testimony of "those who proclaim the gratuity of salvation."

Pope Francis also said during a weekly Sunday Angelus, addressing the skeptical in the crowd, that "the Lord is calling you to be a part of His people and He does it with great respect and love. The Lord does not proselytize; He gives love. And this love seeks you and waits for you, you who at this moment do not believe or are far away. And this is the love of God.” Pope Francis prayed that “all the Church” may be steeped in “the joy of evangelizing” invoking the aid of the Virgin Mary so that “we can all be disciple-missionaries, small stars that reflect His light.”

Various commentators have sought to explain his comments. Suffice it to say, with a term as potentially loaded as "proselytism," Pope Francis seems to be adroitly pointing to the way many Catholics perceive as best to proselytize - through deeds and example, in addition to words. 

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The problem of some in society becoming radicalized should be tackled by building relationships with those at risk, including through business and faith communities, writes Brian Grim in a Tony Blair Faith Foundation commentary.*
Brian grim radicalization
As Europeans join and return from fighting with ISIS in Iraq and Syria, people from across the world, including world leaders, agree that something must be done urgently.

The January 2015 attacks in Paris, carried out by those with a reported link to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), made this abundantly clear. Beyond policing European streets and coordinating an international response to ISIS, what more should be done?

The answer involves understanding two things: the socio-economic context of ISIS's horrific advance, and the diverse social and personal paths to radicalisation.

According to a Pew Research survey in 2013, in the years running up to the ISIS advance the Iraqi public's chief concern was unemployment. Less than half of those surveyed in Iraq considered conflict between religious groups to be a very large problem, but by contrast, three-quarters of those surveyed considered unemployment to be a "very large problem" for the country. Indeed, the lack of jobs arguably softened the ground for ISIS' sudden advance.

Although research indicates that a poor economy does not cause violent extremism, it contributes to the conditions that terrorists can exploit. Indeed, terrorists know how to use poverty and wealth for their benefit. They recruit suicide bombers from the ranks of the poor and they look to the wealthy for cash because, asobserved in the Yale Review of International Studies, the rich "would rather donate their money than their sons to the cause."

More than that, radical extremists think strategically about business and the economy. The January attacks in Paris targeted two local businesses connected with much bigger industries:Hyper Cacher (the multi-billion dollar Kosher food industry) and Charlie Hebdo (the multi-trillion dollar media industry).

On a larger scale, the 9/11 al-Qaeda attack on the World Trade Centre in New York – soaring symbols of development and progress – was not a random choice. In 2004, Osama bin Laden said in a taped speech, "We are continuing this policy in bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy. Every dollar of al-Qaeda defeated a million dollars [spent by the US], including the loss of a huge number of jobs."

Some studies suggest that radical extremism can play a role during times of global economic downturn, but whether or not this is the case, the foreign policy focus of many of the world's leading economies has without a doubt been on war and peace rather than business.

So, if violent extremists attack businesses and take advantage of a bad economy to sow seeds of religious discord and violence, could better business be part of the response to radical extremism? Yes, but this requires an understanding that the radicalisation process is not only social but also deeply personal.

The "pathway by which one person is radicalised can have a completely different effect on someone else", observes Raffaello Pantucci of London's RUSI think tank. A similar conclusionwas reached by the Paris-based Centre of Prevention of Sectarian Derivatives linked to Islam (CPDSI), which finds that contemporary extremist discourse appeals to those from any background, not just those who are considered socially "at risk".

The whole world would like to see an improvement in the lives and future of those living on the edge or fringes of society, where they feel powerless and isolated – the very conditions that can make them most susceptible to proposals to find power through violence.

Reflecting the views of many, Pope Francis said that "it is urgent that governments throughout the world commit themselves to developing an international framework capable of promoting a market of high impact investments, and thus to combating an economy which excludes and discards." Similarly, British prime minister David Cameron argues, "Social investment can be a great force for social change on the planet. It can help us to build bigger and stronger societies. That power is in our hands. And together we will use it to build a better future for ourselves, for our children and for generations to come."

These are grand statements by world leaders. But how does the rubber meet the road when it comes to countering radicalisation?

The instrumental link between social impact investing and countering radicalisation is person-to-person contact. Social investing that has impact requires personal and business relationships characterised by love and respect, not hate and intolerance. Accordingly, the need is for business people in partnership with faith volunteers to build personal relationships with those at risk of radicalisation. The involvement of interfaith teams (including humanists) is a critical component because countering religious hate can most effectively be done with "love of neighbour" as exemplified in the Good Samaritan (a foreigner with a foreign faith, by the way).

Here, neighbourly love is not an emotion but a practical commitment to help mentor those in need with individualised resources that help them provide for their own needs as well as those of their families and extended families. My Religious Freedom & Business Foundation is currently working with a team from faiths as diverse as Mormons and Muslims, Catholics and Humanists, Anglicans and Agnostics, to develop a toolkit for volunteers to use in a personalised way with the at-risk people they mentor. The toolkit will have resources that can be customised as needed to address six themes of a balanced life: education, health, employment, productivity and stewardship, household finances, and spiritual strength. 

The mentors will also be tasked with helping to identify sustainable investments that help promote integration and economic development in communities where people at risk of radicalisation live. The projects should adhere to several important criteria: (1) a high probability of a successful business venture; (2) applicability of the business model to other situations; (3) representation of different faith traditions; and (4) promoting productive collaboration between religious minorities and other segments of society.

When love of neighbour is accompanied by empowering social investment, integration and interfaith appreciation result. In the end, all this is good for business because, as the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby appositely notes, good business is about good relationships. This applies to neighbourhoods in cities and communities throughout Europe, as well as suffering populations in northern Iraq.

For ways to get involved with this initiative, contact the author who will be speaking on 3 February 2015 at the School of Management and Social Sciences, St. Mary's University, Twickenham, London (see details).

* The views expressed by this author remain solely their own and are not to be taken as the view of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation.

This commentary was first published on 2 February 2015 by the Tony Blair Faith Foundation.

As Europeans join and return from fighting with ISIS in Iraq and Syria, people from across the world, including world leaders agree that something must urgently be done. The January 2015 attacks in Paris carried out by individuals with a reported link to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) made this abundantly clear. 
Brian Grim religious freedomCosts of War Project; Household est. tWN
Beyond policing European streets and coordinating an international response to ISIS, does this indicate a new and perhaps even more costly phase of the war on terror is beginning? Time will tell. 

What is becoming clear, however, is the economic cost of terrorism. Beyond the destruction of property and the incalculable value of the hundreds of thousands of lost lives, data show that the economic and military costs are far out of proportion to the amount spent by the terrorists to wreak havoc. 

For instance, a report on the broader impact of terrorism on financial stability by the Coordinator of the United Nations Taliban and Al-Qaida Monitoring Team, Richard Barrett, notes that the British Government estimates that the July 2005 attack on the London transport which killed 52 cost the terrorists around $15,000 compared with an estimated $750,000,000 loss in tourist revenues.   

A similar gap is seen in the broader war on terror. In 2011, the New York Times surveyed various cost estimates and concluded that the U.S. war response to the approximately half a million dollars spent by Al Qaeda to attack New York and Washington added up to some $3.3 trillion, or about $7 million for every dollar spent by Al Qaeda.

A new study by the Cost of War Project at Brown University* estimates that the US federal price tag for the Iraq war — including an estimate for veterans' medical and disability costs into the future  —  is about $4.4 trillion dollars. The study argues that many of the wars’ costs are not readily apparent, spread across various budgets, and therefore have not been fully counted or assessed. For example, while most people think the Pentagon war appropriations are equivalent to the wars’ budgetary costs, the study estimates that the true numbers are twice that, and the full economic cost of the wars much larger yet (see chart below). 

Costs of War Project, http://www.costsofwar.org/
* First released in 2011, the Costs of War report has been compiled and updated by more than 30 economists, anthropologists, lawyers, humanitarian personnel, and political scientists as the first comprehensive analysis of over a decade of wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan. The Costs of War Project analyzes the implications of these wars in terms of human casualties, economic costs, and civil liberties. The Costs of War Project is a nonpartisan, nonprofit, scholarly initiative based at Brown University's Watson Institute for International Studies. 
Employees who openly discuss their religious beliefs at work are often happier and have higher job satisfaction than those employees who do not. This is according to a new cross-cultural study* of nearly 600 working adults from a variety of industries — including education and finance — in the U.S. and South Korea.

Brian Grim Religious Freedom
The researchers concluded: "It is important for managers to consider the work environment and cultural context in its openness to a diversity of religious expression, as it can have an effect on work attitudes and outcomes. Managers should try to foster tolerant environments in which their employees feel that they can affirm their religion at work...."

"For many people, religion is the core of their lives," researcher Sooyeol Kim said. "Being able to express important aspects of one's life can influence work-related issues, such as job satisfaction, work performance or engagement. It can be beneficial for organizations to have a climate that is welcoming to every religion and culture."

An important limitation of the study published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior, however, was that it only looked at Christian employees. Further research needs to be done to study other faiths, and especially whether those unaffiliated with a religion have positive or negative attitudes toward speaking about their beliefs.  

Still, for those with beliefs, "disclosing your religion can be beneficial for employees and individual well-being," Kim said. "When you try to hide your identity, you have to pretend or you have to lie to others, which can be stressful and negatively impact how you build relationships with co-workers."

Kim said there are several ways employees can share their religion in the workplace. Employees might decorate their desk with a religious object, such as a cross or a calendar. They also may share stories or information about their religious beliefs during conversation, such as describing a church-related event.

Kim said the research on religion in the workplace plays a part into work-life balance. Research continues to show that individual characteristics — such as family and religion — can influence work-related issues.

"People can bring nonworking issues into the workplace or they may bring a work issue into their nonworking domain," Kim said. "Now days that boundary is blurred and there are less clear distinctions between work and personal life."

Applying models of employee identity management across cultures: Christianity in the USA and South Korea by co-authors on the study include Brent Lyons, assistant professor of management and organization studies at Simon Fraser University; Jennifer Wessel, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Maryland; Sonia Ghumman, assistant professor of management at the University of Hawaii, Manoa; and Ann Marie Ryan, professor of psychology at Michigan State University, and Sooyeol Kim of Kansas State University.

NEW STUDY: The ongoing growth of Christianity and the growth of China’s economy may be related, according to a new study in the China Economic Review by Qunyong Wang (Institute of Statistics and Econometrics, Nankai University, Tianjin) and Xinyu Lin (Renmin University of China, Beijing).
PictureBrian Grim China
What has fueled China’s remarkable economic growth that has lifted more than 500 million people out of abject poverty and positioned it to become the world’s largest economy?

In part, it’s been fueled by the pipeline of market mechanisms, modern technology and Western management practices that former paramount leader Deng Xioaping untapped in the 1980s.

But according to Yukong Zhao, a China expert 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.

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, in his words, “ambitious, hardworking, thrifty, caring for their families and relentlessly pursuing good education and success.”

Continue reading the entire article at First Things ...

Brian J. Grim is author of The Weekly Number and president of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, as well as an affiliated scholar at Georgetown and Boston Universities, and a member of the World Economic Forum’s global agenda council on the role of faith.

The positive contributions of religious freedom to society generated significantly greater interest than the problems of religious freedom, based on analysis of social media engagement in 2014.

Click image to to get the details on this holiday edition co-published with the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation.

Talk of the U.S. pivot to Asia has been overshadowed by the rise of new perpetrators of terror. Al Qaeda has been eclipsed by a new brand of jihadist groups such as the 'Islamic State’ seeking to build a Caliphate across the Middle East and Boko Haram doing the same in western Africa. New data show the extent of the violence being inflicted by such groups. 
Brian Grim Religious Freedom
While most deaths occur in a hand full of countries, the specter of Lone-wolf attacks, as the one unfolding in Sydney shows, affect countries far outside the region. With recent "Lone Wolf" attacks in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K., the terror is brought very close to home. 

New research carried out by the BBC World Service, BBC Monitoring, and the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR) produced a global snapshot of this rising tide of terror by recording all the reported deaths that were caused by jihadist groups and networks during the month of November 2014. 

The study found that jihadists killed 5,042 people in 664 attacks during the month. The Islamic State conflict in Syria and Iraq accounted for the largest share of deaths, though attacks in 12 other countries claimed thousands as well. This includes nearly 800 deaths in Nigeria and another 800 in Afghanistan, plus hundreds in Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan.

In light of the apparent lack of success in combatting the rise of global terror using hard power alone, and the economic consequences of the deteriorating situation of religious freedom worldwide, a new editorial argues that positively encouraging countries to protect international religious freedom ideals will bear more fruit than using the default tool - a hammer. 

Research finds that laws and practices burdening religion are related to higher levels of corruption. 
Brian Grim Religious Freedom
This is borne out by simple comparison between the Pew Research Center’s 2012 Government Restrictions on Religion Index with the 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index. Nine of the ten most corrupt countries have high or very high governmental restrictions on religious liberty, including North Korea, which Pew does not have enough data to rate but considers one of the most religiously restrictive countries. 

Religious freedom also implies that business people can draw on religious values and moral teachings in their businesses. The attempt to force businesses to act as entirely secular organizations may be one contributing factor to the corruption, greed and shortsighted decisions that led to the global economic collapse of 2008 and still affects many people and nations today. Allowing religion to inform business ethnics certainly is an aspect of religious freedom.

Religion can contribute to peace according to a report by the Institute for Economics and Peace carried out in conjunction with the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation
PictureIEP, p. 21-22
Although there is a tendency to focus on conflicts which can be defined by religious competition, there are many examples where religious leaders have played significant roles in peace. Oft cited examples are Desmond Tutu, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King and the role they played in successful non-violent movements.

Two ways in which religions can facilitate greater peace is through the common benefits of group membership, and the power of inter-faith dialogue for conflict resolution. This is highlighted by the number of groups dedicated to inter-faith dialogue such as Religions for Peace which is a global organisation with hundreds of affiliates.

Additionally, research highlights that the membership of groups is a form of social capital and in general social capital is associated with better performance in peace. Greater religious membership can have a positive impact to a country’s peace providing that it is tolerant and also depending on a complementary mix of attitudes, institutions and structures within a nation. The Pillars of Peace has found that civic engagement and participation is associated with gains in peace. A study of the responses from 46 countries in the World Values Survey finds that higher group membership corresponds with greater levels of peace. 

PictureThis chart is a corrected version from the IEP report
The category with the biggest difference between above and below average membership rates is for the ‘Any Other Organisation’ which includes any group not listed in Figure 9. This includes general social groups as well as general interest groups. Some examples would be gaming groups, appreciation societies, heritage groups, language groups and common interest groups. Given the large diversity of these groups and that it is user defined it is difficult to draw any conclusions from this, except that it confirms the trend whereby above average group membership rates corresponds with greater peace.

The difference between the two groups above average or below average membership rates consistently shows higher membership rates are associated with more peaceful countries, other than for environmental groups. The difference ranges from three per cent to 15 per cent. Figure 9 demonstrates that there is a connection between religious membership and peace, although not large. This study included 47 countries and therefore the sample is not comprehensive. Nevertheless, the study does help to inform our understanding of the relationship between peace and religion. 

Membership could encourage improvements in several of the Pillars of Peace. For example, greater group membership could lead to improvements in the Good Relations with Neighbours Pillar. This Pillar refers to the relations between individuals and communities as well as to crossborder relations. Countries with positive external relations are more peaceful and tend to be more politically stable, have better functioning governments, are regionally integrated and have low levels of organised internal conflict.

Assessing whether religion is a vice or virtue for conflict does not allow for a nuanced understanding of its relationship with peace. Instead, a more holistic view of peace is needed. Whilst the relationship between relgion and peace has some significance, there are many other factors which have greater explanatory power. Government type appears to have a much more significant connection with peace, and religious freedom, than religious characteristics. That is not to say that religious characteristics, like the absence of a dominant group and religious diversity, do not correspond with higher peace. Rather, there are other features which are more significant that are not related to religion.

PictureIEP. p. 22

Another aspect of religion which can have a positive impact on peace is inter-faith dialogue
and peacebuilding dialogues. Organisations such as Religions for Peace are global in reach and consist of hundreds of affiliated organisations. 

Inter-faith dialogue is a growing area of conflict resolution and peacebuilding which has become more significant, especially in the twenty-first century. Inter-faith dialogue has been a successfully employed strategy in ending conflicts. This includes civil and political movements such as the interfaith movement surrounding the U.S. Civil Rights movement and the reconciliation efforts at the end of Apartheid in South Africa, as well as armed conflict including less well known events such as intervention of an imam and pastor in Yelwa Shendam Nigeria and the mediation of the Sant’Egidio Community which helped resolve the civil war in Mozambique in 1992. Religions for Peace for instance played a key role in ending the conflict in Sierra Leone via the Inter-religious Council of Sierra Leone.

Douglas Johnston, president of the International Centre on Religion and Diplomacy, has identified that there are certain conditions for faith-based intervention to have an increased likelihood of success. These include that there is a religious element to the conflict, the presence of religious leaders on both sides of a dispute, religious struggles that transcend national borders and if there has been delays in bringing about a resolution to the conflict.22 There is a large body of literature which demonstrates the success of inter-faith dialogue as a catalyst for the cessation of armed conflict. This report does not seek to add to that body, but rather to note some of the positive elements of religion.

Some religious factors are significantly related to peace according to a report by the Institute for Economics and Peace carried out in conjunction with the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation.
Brian Grim Peace
The report, Five Key Questions Answered on the Link between Peace and Religion, found that some religious factors that are significantly related to peace.

The two religious characteristics associated with peace are LOW government restrictions on religious behavior and LOW social hostilities involving religion. In addition, countries with higher religious diversity are, on average, more peaceful and have less restrictions on or social hostilities involving religion than countries with religious monopolies

The impact of government restrictions on and social hostilities involving religion can be seen by looking at government type, which is a key driver of peace.

Brian Grim PeaceSource: IEP, PEW, EIU

As governments are further away from being a full democracy (see chart), religious hostilities and government restrictions on religious freedom are more severe. The trend holds true across the board, although, because of the repressive nature of authoritarian regimes, such regimes hold down social hostilities more than hybrid and flawed democracies because of the often overwhelming force used to control any social opposition or political dissent. 

Full democracies have the best average performance in peace, and the lowest levels of religious restrictions and religious hostilities. Less regulation of religion reduces the grievances of religions, and also decreases the ability of any single religion to wield undue political power (also see The Price of Freedom Denied).

Full democracies outperform every other government type. Full democracies are on average 58% more peaceful, have 131% less religious restrictions and 49% less religious hostility than authoritarian regimes. Authoritarian regimes have the worst performance in peace and unsurprisingly in religious restrictions. However, authoritarian regimes are the second best performing government type on the Social Hostilities Index, reflecting the ‘enforced peace’ that can occur in some authoritarian contexts.

Every full democracy, except the US, is amongst the 50 most peaceful countries in the world. Full democracies have disproportionately higher levels of non-believers than other forms of government. However, the overall proportions of atheists are generally very low and are therefore incapable of creating a strong influence on the factors that affect peace. Full democracies are peaceful regardless of the levels of religious belief.

Brian Grim Peace

Countries that are more religiously diverse - that is, without a dominant religious group - have, on average, higher levels of peace and less government restrictions towards religion. They also have lower levels of religious hostilities. In this study, a dominant religious group means there is more than 60% of the population identifying as followers of a particular belief system or denomination.

Countries without a dominant religious group are on average 17% more peaceful than countries with a dominant religious group. Similarly, countries without a dominant religious group have on average 25% less religious restrictions and 40% lower religious hostilities.

The presence of mulitple religions in a country appears to have a pacifying effect if they are free of restrictions. Alternatively, if the members of a religious group dominates and “achieves a monopoly”, they are likely to be able to access and use the power of the state. What has been seen in the past is that dominant religious groups with state power are open to persecute other religious groups and competitors.