Tanenbaum Peacemakers in Action Speak at United Nations

Leading grassroots peacebuilders and Tanenbaum Peacemakers in Action, from six of the world’s conflict zones, made a celebrated appearance at the United Nations on Wednesday, July 13, 2016.

The event, “Turning the Tide: Engaging Religiously-Motivated Peacebuilders in Conflict Zones,” addressed two topics: alternative approaches to combating extremism and ways that grassroots peacemakers build relationships and trust with community members, diplomats and government officials.

The first panel featured Tanenbaum Peacemakers Ms. Maria Ida “Deng” Giguiento (Philippines), Mr. Azhar Hussain (Pakistan), and Ms. Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge (South Africa), as well as H.E. Mr. Rubén Ignacio Zamora Rivas, Permanent Representative of El Salvador to the United Nations. H.E. Mr. Kai Sauer, Permanent Representative of Finland to the United Nations moderated the first panel.

Peacemaker Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge highlighted the need for multi-faith peacebuilding in South African communities. She noted how, “The interfaith movement between Christians, Muslims and Hindus, created in the struggle to end apartheid, continues today, providing a moral canvas for our government.”

Tanenbaum’s most recently awarded Peacemaker in Action, Deng Giguiento, discussed how she advises military leaders as a peacebuilder in the Philippines. She described once believing that she couldn’t work with the military: “I always perceived them as the enemy. But I was taught to pray for my enemies.” Following prayer with action, Deng sees positive results as she trains both military and community members with the hope of building a “lasting peace in Mindanao.”

The second panel reviewed innovative approaches to tackling violent extremism and the prominent but frequently overlooked role of women in this field. Panelists included Peacemakers Mr. Ricardo Esquiva (Colombia), Ms. Dishani Jayaweera (Sri Lanka), and Dr. Sakena Yacoobi (Afghanistan), as well as Ms. Faiza Patel, Co-Director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law School, and Mr. Andrew Tomlinson, Director & Quaker U.N. Representative. Ms. Lakshmi Puri, Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and Deputy Executive Director of UN Women moderated.

Ms. Lakshmi began the panel by discussing how “Essentially religion is about humanity. It is about rights and it’s about the equality of all creatures.” Then Sri Lankan Peacemaker Dishani Jayaweera described how she created the Female Religious Leaders Initiative after working with 300 male religious leaders from diverse faith traditions. She began the initiative “to explore the role of female religious leaders in peacebuilding and reconciliation” and their “interpretation of religion and spirituality.” Her work aims to include women in the religious peacebuilding process, essential for creating lasting peace.

Peacemaker Sakena Yacoobi, who has founded numerous schools in Afghanistan, expressed, “I really strongly believe that women are the victim in every country, women and children.” And she gave insight into the solution, “If we really want to bring peace – it is not through guns, it’s not through tanks, it is through education…. education is the key issue that brings transformation”.

Peacemaker Ricardo Esquivia (Colombia) spoke about the importance of including both communities and government offices in the peacemaking process to combat extremism. “[We] use a pedagogy of nonviolence to teach communities about non-violent action, and we mobilize


to interact through dialogue and direct negotiations with local and national governmental officials.”

The event at the UN was part of the 2016 Tanenbaum Peacemakers in Action Network Retreat, which brought together Peacemakers from all over the world to exchange ideas and best-practices in peacebuilding. This year’s retreat focused on combating violent extremism and women in peacebuilding.

We extend our gratitude to the event’s sponsors: The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), KAICIID, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (GOA), and the GHR Foundation.

Religious Discrimination in the Workplace

Earlier this year, we conducted a non-scientific survey to learn if you had experienced or witnessed religious bias in your workplace.

Although most of you who responded have never experienced any kind of religious discrimination in the workplace, 21% of you said that you had experienced unequal treatment. If we include those of you who witnessed bias, the number jumps to 29%. So, approximately 1-in-3 of you have experienced or witnessed religious bias at work.  

The diverse stories you shared suggested that no religion in particular seemed to be discriminated against more than the others. Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and atheists felt equally bullied at certain times in their work environments—especially during religious holidays.

Here are some story highlights, opinions and responses to “Have you ever personally experienced religious harassment/bullying/bias in the workplace?”

  • I worked for a very Orthodox Jewish employer and they allowed all Orthodox Jewish employees, but not others, to take off every holiday. They never offered an explanation why.
  • I am Roman Catholic and on Ash Wednesday, comments were made about my ashes on my forehead. How silly and pointless it was. I have been made fun of for going to confession.
  • I am deeply religious. I often feel that people make fun of religion or act like religious people are all fanatics and crazy. They never say I'm crazy, but I am the only one who seems to defend religion in our conversations.
  • Nothing in my employer’s holiday policy allows for alternative days off, just standard Christian holidays. My employer also does not make an effort to schedule meetings around important non-Christian religious holidays.
  • Where I work, many people are atheists and are not even comfortable discussing religion openly.
  • I work in an academic environment and I have experienced bullying from fundamentalist atheists, not from people of faith.

Although our survey was not scientific, the results certainly indicate that there is a need for employers to be more accommodating of religious needs in the workplace.

If you are working for a company that could use help adopting an accommodation mindset, we have several resources that might be of help to the company and their human resource professionals:

We thank everyone who participated in the survey. Although we only printed a small sample of the comments, we read and appreciated all the responses and look forward to hearing from you in our next survey. 

If you have a suggestion for a survey topic or question, we’d love to hear it! Please comment below or send the questions our way!