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Religious Diversity Leadership Summit: Raising the Bar

This year’s third annual Religious Diversity Leadership Summit was the largest one yet, with attendance near capacity and a waitlist in hand. Tanenbaum’s first full day Summit boasts 155 attendees and 23 speakers plus moderators from 64 companies, spanning 18 industries. The day included four concurrent breakout sessions addressing focused topics, another first for the Summit. Hosted by Bloomberg, the Summit was sponsored by Bloomberg, DTCC, and the Walt Disney Company.

Speakers shared personal stories to highlight pragmatic approaches to handling religious diversity in the workplace, showing attendees that this topic is not just about professional policies, it’s also about the people. Amin Kassam, keynote speaker and Chief of Staff and Senior Counsel at Bloomberg, eloquently spoke of his trepidation of coming out of two closets, as gay and as Muslim, during his professional life and highlighted some of his challenges. He courageously discussed the intersectionality of his religious and sexual identities in a way that was moving and inspiring.

Panelists and moderators in the programs that followed repeatedly came back to the importance of “bringing ones’ whole self to work” and the positive impact, as well as sometimes challenges, this can have for everyone. This was addressed in the context of varying positions of power in a company, the impact of generational norms, and the influence of different company cultures (corporate, non-profit, government, etc.).

In response to the Summit, attendees shared the following reactions and takeaways from the day:

  • “I have attended the previous conference[s]. They just keep getting better.”
  • “I appreciated ‘respectful curiosity. As a baby boomer, I was taught never to ask questions about why people are different. However, I always found [that] by asking respectful questions, you get to learn the culture and practices of others.”
  • As organizations, we celebrate what we value. [Also,] don’t be paralyzed by potential backlash. Instead, be prepared to ask people what they want/need when they raise concerns and say ‘What about me?’
  • “The Senior Leadership Panel described strong actions implemented at their company that describes the financial [return on investment] from diversity and inclusion. Using the Learning Lab assignment with Senior Management will generate dialogue and ultimately result in exercise to implement with staff.”

Pragmatic approaches were presented together with presenters’ stories, which provided an element of transparency that many attendees were pleasantly surprised to experience. From Mr. Kassam’s speech to the six different panels to Deputy CEO Mark Fowler’s Learning Lab, the Summit provided attendees with personal insight and practical knowledge of how to handle religion in the workplace. The overarching message of the day as one attendee so powerfully articulated was that diversity of religion is a fact, but inclusion of religion is a choice.”

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From Competence to Confidence: Religious Diversity Leadership Summit

Tanenbaum’s second Religious Diversity Leadership Summit took place on May 23rd at Bloomberg, LP. Over 100 people from more than 35 companies attended the event. In its second year, this event grew 65% in attendance and was twice as long. The Summit was made possible by our generous sponsors: Bloomberg, DTCC, and the Walt Disney Company.

According to our post-event survey, some of the most important takeaways from the event included:

  • “…this summit helped me uncover the fact that religion is often neglected and never discussed yet it’s KEY in bringing our whole selves to work, therefore we should be talking about its impact way more.”
  • “I…was on the fence about interfaith ERG’s, but now I’m sold. I plan to use the notes to start discussion with our team.”
  • “Hearing from leaders who have been successful in implementing religious diversity programs as well as representation from the regulatory agency was a fantastic opportunity.”

We can’t wait to further grow the Summit in 2018!

Tanenbaum’s 2016 Religious Diversity Leadership Summit

On Monday, May 23rd, representatives from over 30 companies came together at Gotham Hall in New York City to discuss global strategies for addressing religious diversity and inclusion. Tanenbaum’s first-ever Religious Diversity Leadership Summit was made possible by co-sponsors Disney and DTCC and featured speakers Brian Grim (Religious Freedom and Business Foundation), Pramila Rao (Marymount University) and Neal Goodman (Global Dynamics).

All photos: Jon Nissenbaum

Nigerian authorities pleaded for peace over the Easter holiday: News Roundup

In the news this week, Nigeria attacks leave more than 50 dead, Obama Easter Service Pastor, Luis León, criticized for remarks against religious right, and other stories. 

Attacks on villages surrounding a central Nigerian city at the heart of unrest between Christians and Muslims have killed more than 50 people this week, officials said Saturday, as authorities pleaded for peace over the Easter holiday.

The attacks around Jos, a city in Nigeria's fertile central belt, come as a string of unsolved killings continue to plague the region that has seen thousands killed in massacres in recent years. While a combined police and military presence still patrols Jos and other parts of Plateau state, many of the villages attacked sit in remote, rural corners of the area that sometimes have only a single police officer on duty.

The most recent killings happened Friday night in the Barkin Ladi area, said Lt. Jude Akpa, a military spokesman. Attackers raided a village called Bokkos and killed nine people, fleeing before soldiers arrived, Akpa said. Emmanuel Lohman, a government official there, said gunmen armed with assault rifles struck a village called Ratas and opened fire in the night while many there were sleeping. The Huffington Post

Under attack by some conservatives for speaking out against the "captains of the religious right" in his Easter sermon, the Rev. Luis León, pastor of the Episcopal church the Obama family attended for the holiday, told The Huffington Post on Monday that he stands by his words.

"It's in there. People will do what they want with it," said Leon, referring to the sermon in which he said it drives him "crazy when the captains of the religious right are always calling us back … for blacks to be back in the back of the bus … for women to be back in the kitchen … for immigrants to be back on their side of the border."

The words, spoken as he instructed congregants to follow the advice of Jesus telling Mary Magdalene not to cling to him after he returned to life after death, came as Leon said Christians need to remember that "God address us in the now." In the sermon, he linked the story to what he described as conservatives grasping onto outdated views on race, gender roles and immigration. The Huffington Post

American Christians have a persecution complex. Whenever a public figure criticizes the Christian movement or offers believers in other faiths an equal voice in society, you can bet Christians will start howling. Claims about American persecution of Christians are a form of low comedy in a country where two-thirds of citizens claim to be Christians, where financial gifts to Christian churches are tax deductible, where Christian pastors can opt out of social security, and where no one is restricted from worshipping however, whenever, and wherever they wish.

But for many Christians, the “war on religion” is no laughing matter.

Let’s be clear: protecting religious freedom is a serious concern, and believers should speak up whenever they feel the free practice of any faith—not just their own—is threatened. But what is happening in America is not “persecution.” Using such a label is an insult to the faithful languishing in other parts of the world where persecution actually exists—places like the Middle East. Religion News Service

Torches flickered outside the church. Little girls wore their sparkly Easter best. Children bearing lanterns filed out through the heavy gilt doors, as worshipers carried an icon of Jesus and a cross covered with carnations.

But the Good Friday procession at St. Kyrillos Church here in Syria’s capital did not follow the route it had taken for generations. No drums or trumpets announced its presence. The marchers made a tight circle inside the iron-gated courtyard, then headed back into the church, a hedge against the mortar shells like the one that hit a hospital across the street recently. At pauses in their singing, gunfire rattled, not more than a few blocks away.

Easter weekend is usually the year’s most festive for Syria’s Christians, but this year, it is infused with grave uncertainty. Christians here say they primarily fear the general chaos enveloping the country as the war enters its third year. But like members of Syria’s other religious minorities, many Christians also fear what they see as the rise of extremists among the mainly Sunni Muslim rebels fighting the government of President Bashar al-Assad. The New York Times