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What does Global Ethics Day mean in today’s world?

Today is Global Ethics Day. But what does that mean in today’s world? What do we mean by ethics? Do we mean our values? Or do we mean, how we live our lives?

One way to answer this is by referring to what I call, the musings of the Wise Ones. The oldest discussions of character for which there are records come from the ancient Greeks. They are best known from the reflections of such well-known philosophers as Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. Indeed, many of Plato’s “Socratic Dialogues” specifically examine virtue and the character of a virtuous person.

There’s the philosopher Herodotus, known for his proto-relativistic creed: “Man is the measure of all things.” And in more recent history, the assessment by the late literary giant, Elie Wiesel who observed, “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” Or the words of the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Albert Schweitzer who wrote, “Until he extends the circle of compassion to all living things, man will not himself find peace.”  

We can find values amid their ideas. However, I prefer to define ethics by considering the lives, and actions, of religious peacebuilders—individuals who, because of religion, dedicate themselves to pursuing peace. Around the world, such extraordinary yet unknown women and men exist. Driven by faith, they dare to do the work that others are afraid to take on. Tanenbaum’s Peacemakers in Action Network is a group of such individuals, a special breed from the world’s most violent crises. They offer critical insights, real-world skills and examples of ethical leadership that can inspire.

Take for example, Imam Dr. Muhammad Ashafa and Pastor James Wuye of Nigeria who have been publicly pursuing anti-corruption efforts to keep their country’s upcoming general elections fair and honest. Each has been a voice for safe elections, calling on their fellow countrymen to critically assess what politicians say, to be wary of false promises by politicians, to educate themselves and apply the core values of their religious traditions in their everyday lives and as they exercise their votes. Imam Ashafa noted:

“In every street in Nigeria, you find Churches and Mosques with people calling unto God but yet our attitudes to one another does not portray what we are learning in our various places of worship.”

Similarly, his peace partner Pastor James has added his voice to the Nigerian public’s pre-election preparation. In the past month, alone, he offered valued insights at a four-day interreligious dialogue between leaders of the Muslim Students Society of Nigeria and the Fellowship of Christian Students of Nigeria; and again at a capacity-building workshop for youth to better combat corruption. At the latter event, held in Northern-Nigeria, where Boko Haram has spread fear and violence, Pastor James spoke boldly on lingering criminal activities and banditry in the northern states. In so doing, he pursued truth while placing himself at risk. He stated:

“Those that are involved in curtailing these problems are benefiting from it financially, and that is why it is occurring.”

Such efforts are high profile in a country where extremism lurks. Yet these men pursue democratic processes even when laying low and remaining silent would be safer. They are not alone.

Elsewhere in Africa, Peacemaker Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge of South Africa’s Cape Town-based organization Embrace Dignity is helping women and girls in the sex industry, and those who are victims of human trafficking. Working directly with the women, while also putting herself “out there” with political leaders, Nozizwe and her colleagues are trying to move the Parliament of South Africa to pass an equality law that would decriminalize the act of selling sex – thus supporting women’s agency over their own bodies – but would also criminalize the act of paying for sex. Ideally, the law would lower the demand for solicited sex, while simultaneously decreasing the supply of women and girls being trafficked into the sex industry – similar to the Nordic model from 1999. In a recent IOL interview, Nozizwe explained:

“This law must be heavy on the buyers (of sex work), who are creating a demand. If there is no demand, there is no supply. Women are being thrown in the street either by family members or by desperation. That is what caused the demand. We elevate their voices so the government can hear them. We are showing the government that it can be done!”

So again, what do we mean when we talk about ethics? Values or actions that demonstrate values? Actions unveil a person’s moral and ethical character and reveal who they really are. So as we think about Global Ethics Day, let’s identify the strongest values we can muster…and then put them into action.

International Day of Peace

Friends,
 
This year’s International Day of Peace celebrates the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This document lays out a vision of human rights for all. As such, it is critical to all of us.
 
But what needs to be remembered is that the Declaration itself, and much of the work that has followed its powerful release, would not exist without women – including women of faith – who are involved in the peacebuilding process. As head of the Human Rights Commission, it was a woman, Eleanor Roosevelt, who was instrumental in composing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The work that has grown from that document would not exist if not for that one visionary woman.
 
​​​​​​​Yesterday, I had the privilege of speaking on a panel at the United Nations General Assembly called Keeping Faith in Sustainable Peace: Women of Faith as Agents of Transformation. I spoke alongside professor Hind Kabawat, a member of Tanenbaum’s Peacemakers in Action Network, along with Fatima Madaki, from Search for Common Ground and a KAICIID International Fellow. These women, along with myself, are living proof that women of faith can and should be recognized for the roles we play in the peace and reconciliation process, as formal and more often informal, agents of peace. Among our panel, we unanimously agreed that before anything else, UN leaders, diplomats, government officials and religious leaders within various communities MUST collaborate with women as allies and partners in the conversation. Women need more than a seat at the table. They need many seats. 
 
Early on, Tanenbaum saw the importance of women of faith in peace, and committed to formally recognizing women among our Peacemakers. Today, the Peacemakers in Action Network includes 10 women of faith – from all different conflict zones, who each live out their faith in different ways that build towards sustainable peace and inclusion. 
 
Too often the role women play as agents of peace is undervalued and often straight out ignored. Their work, their perspectives, their existence must be recognized. So today, to honor the past 70 years and look towards the next 70, let’s change how we work together – and make sure that we are working with the multitudes of women who make peace possible internationally.
 
And just in case you still have doubts about the power of religious and faith-based women peacebuilders…please take a few minutes to review Tanenbaum’s resource sheet, Women Who Pursue Peace and Justice, on the female peacemakers we recognize and partner with, and the important work they’re doing.
 
Yours in peace, 
 
Joyce S. Dubensky
CEO, Tanenbaum 

Fostering Religio-Cultural Competence in Nursing

Dear Friends,

On July 19-20, 2018, Tanenbaum convened a number of nursing educators from across the United States, to discuss our new nursing curriculum, Fostering Religio-Cultural Competence in Nursing. This curriculum was created and piloted in partnership with Columbia University School of Nursing’s Masters Direct Entry (MDE) Program to address a gap in nursing education in relation to religious and cultural competence. The event was well attended, with representatives from 16 nursing schools, and 34 attendees overall, including nursing educators, practicing nurses, and people generally involved in health care and health education.

Our speakers at the event, Dr. Vivian Taylor, Associate Dean of Diversity and Cultural Affairs at Columbia University School of Nursing, Dr. Karen Desjardins, Associate Professor and Director of the MDE Program at Columbia University School of Nursing, and our Deputy CEO, Mark Fowler discussed the challenges and opportunities encountered when creating and implementing the curriculum. They further discussed the opportunities for new nurses to have this training in advance of seeing patients. We fulfilled one goal of the Symposium through conversations, garnering feedback on the curriculum content and gaining advice on how to organize the material to attract interest from, and better serve, nursing education programs when the curriculum is made available to the public.

This symposium is the culmination of a 4-year effort spearheaded by Tanenbaum and CUSON staff to create and organize a nursing curriculum on religio-cultural competence that is accessible and easily incorporated into existing nursing programs and class syllabi. The symposium guests responded well to the curriculum, many underlining the necessity of better education and training when it comes to interacting with and treating patients of unfamiliar religious and cultural backgrounds.

Other insights included:

“Great people, awesome organization, and insightful lecturers”

“This conference far exceeded my expectations. I am excited and motivated to begin a new academic year with a new skill set (although I still have much to learn)”

“[The curriculum] seems very thorough”

“It seems very accurate and comprehensive, it’s good to have lots of case studies”

“[I am] really pleased with the material”

We also received some guidance on how to expand the curriculum’s impact by perhaps, making it more concise, breaking up the curriculum thematically rather than by specialty, making the questions more open-ended, both for students and patients, and for certain case studies, including more background information and context.

Overall the Nursing Symposium was a success! The feedback we received was much appreciated and will help guide our next steps as we move this curriculum forward so we can soon make it available to all nursing schools and nursing education programs. We are very excited to continue this project and our effort to ensure that patients of all religious and cultural backgrounds are treated equally and with respect.

Warm regards,

The Tanenbaum Health Care Team

Tanenbaum’s 2017 Annual Report Is Here!

 

Dear Friends,

For those who believe in equality, nonviolence and multi-belief understanding, 2017 was a challenge. We saw children bullied without mercy and how religious bias fuels hate (it’s the #1 cause of hate crimes in New York State). And still, more than one-in-three U.S. workers still experience (or witness) religious bias at work.

In my view, it’s up to each of us to counter the bigotry, hatred and violence that threaten the unity of our nation. That’s why—at Tanenbaum—we continued expanding our programs, staffing, and have stepped up our advocacy based on our core principles…making religious freedom a reality, while preventing discrimination against people based on their religious beliefs, race, gender or sexual orientation.

We were a public voice against acts of extremism, the Muslim ban, the RAISE Act, and white supremacy. And we opposed bigotry in amicus briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Internationally, we supported collaboration among our 28 Peacemakers in Action and convened a Southeast Asia Intervention, where several Peacemakers trained more than 465 peace activists. We also welcomed two new Peacemakers to our Network. Dr. Sarah AK Ahmed is a Muslim from Iraq, serving internally displaced Kurds, Christians and others suffering from the trauma that engulfs her country. And James Lual Atak, a former child soldier, returned to South Sudan after his escape, to rescue and teach orphans…and anyone else in need.

And that’s not all. At home, we broke a new record, reaching over 1 million patients by partnering with NYC Health + Hospitals to provide religio-cultural competence training to their staff.

Meanwhile, our Corporate Membership program increased by more than 40% to include 38 global companies employing more than 5 million people.

I thank you for your support – we couldn’t do it without you.

Joyce S. Dubensky, Esq
CEO, Tanenbaum

Eid Mubarak!

Dear Friends,

The Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha will be celebrated between August 20th and August 21st this year! Eid-al-Adha, also known as the Feast of the Sacrifice, is an important holiday and those observing may wish to take the day off from work to celebrate with family and friends and attend to religious practices like attending mosque.

To learn more about Eid al-Adha and its potential impact on the workplace, read our Eid al-Adha Fact Sheet!

In friendship,

Mark Fowler
Deputy CEO, Tanenbaum


Image credit: Seika via Flickr

Tanenbaum named 2018 Nissan Foundation Grant Recipient

To download the press release, please click here.


Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding named 2018 Nissan Foundation Grant Recipient

  • Nissan Foundation grant to fund “Combating Extremism and Promoting Respect: A Public Education Campaign” aimed at promoting critical thinking, conversation and reflection to address religious-based fear, misinformation and prejudice.

  • In 26th year, Nissan Foundation maintains its singular focus on recognizing nonprofits promoting
    respect among racial and cultural groups

New York, NY, July, 2018: The Nissan Foundation today named the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding as a 2018 grant recipient. The Nissan Foundation grant will help fund partnership building efforts to expand the campaign’s reach, including a public panel featuring experts and former members of extremist groups, as well as six new resources that counter extremist rhetoric, and promote connection, critical thinking and understanding for the diversity within our communities.

“We are grateful to the Nissan Foundation for supporting our Campaign to counter fear and misinformation with knowledge that fosters respect for difference,” said Mark Fowler, Deputy CEO of Tanenbaum, “This grant will help us build new partnerships and opportunities to extend the campaign’s reach and impact.”    

The Nissan Foundation’s 2018 grantees include 29 nonprofit organizations located in Southern California, North Central Texas, Middle Tennessee, Central Mississippi, Eastern Michigan and the New York and Atlanta metro areas. In total, the Nissan Foundation is awarding grants amounting to $730,000.

In 1992, Nissan North America formed the Nissan Foundation in response to the civil unrest that occurred near Nissan’s then U.S. headquarters in Southern California following the Rodney King trial verdict. Every year since, the Nissan Foundation has awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars to organizations that offer educational programs that inform, inspire and celebrate diversity among the various cultural and ethnic groups that make up society.

Over its 26-year history, the Nissan Foundation has awarded more than $10 million to approximately 120 organizations promoting respect and understanding among cultural and ethnic groups.

It is a privilege to recognize the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding with a Nissan Foundation grant for the work it is doing to promote the value of racial, ethnic and cultural diversity,” said Nissan Foundation President Scott Becker, who is also senior vice president, Administration, Nissan North America, Inc. “The Nissan Foundation has a proud history of recognizing and supporting organizations making a real impact in this regard.”

The Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding, founded 25 years ago and based in Lower Manhattan, offers programs and resources providing educators, physicians and corporate leaders with practical tools for addressing religious differences and creating cultures that respect religious diversity. It was founded in

1992 by Dr. Georgette F. Bennett, in memory of her late husband, Rabbi Marc H. Tanenbaum, a humanitarian interfaith leader.

Since September 2015, Tanenbaum has been responding to the further escalation of Islamophobia and other forms of hate that marginalizes religious communities in New York and beyond. Through a public education campaign called Combating Extremism, Tanenbaum creates and disseminates public education materials that address fear, misinformation and prejudice. These monthly materials provide thought-provoking resources to counter divisive rhetoric, promote critical thinking and spread greater appreciation and understanding of our shared values amid diverse religious (and nonreligious) beliefs.

Mark Fowler, Tanenbaum’s Deputy CEO added, “The Nissan Foundation has been a valuable partner in our work to create spaces in our communities for mutual respect and understanding. We are thankful for their continued support.”

Call for 2019 grant applicants

The Nissan Foundation will begin accepting letters of intent for the 2019 grant cycle in October with a submission deadline of Friday, Oct. 26. Nissan Foundation grants are awarded annually; the next grants will be awarded in June 2019.

For more information about the Nissan Foundation and its application process, visit the Nissan Foundation page at https://goo.gl/e3hkuf.

About the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding

Based in New York City, Tanenbaum is a secular, non-sectarian nonprofit that promotes mutual respect with practical programs that bridge religious difference and combat prejudice in schools, workplaces, health care settings, and conflict zones. More information about Tanenbaum’s offerings can be found here: https://tanenbaum.org/.

About the Nissan Foundation

Established in 1992, the mission of the Nissan Foundation is to build community through valuing cultural diversity. The Nissan Foundation is part of Nissan North America’s commitment to “enrich people’s lives” by helping to meet the needs of communities throughout the U.S. through philanthropic investments, corporate outreach sponsorships, in-kind donations and other charitable contributions.

About Nissan North America

In North America, Nissan’s operations include automotive styling, engineering, consumer and corporate financing, sales and marketing, distribution and manufacturing. Nissan is dedicated to improving the environment under the Nissan Green Program and has been recognized annually by the U.S Environmental Protection Agency as an ENERGY STAR® Partner of the Year since 2010. More information on Nissan in North America and the complete line of Nissan and Infiniti vehicles can be found online at www.NissanUSA.com and www.InfinitiUSA.com, or visit the U.S. media sites NissanNews.com and InfinitiNews.com.

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Our Neighbors, Our Border

Dear Friends,

Across our nation, we are agonizing—and debating—the fate of children being torn from their parents at our border. This is a policy debate. It is a moral debate. And, it is a religious debate. How we read and understand our faith traditions is fueling our views. How we respond reveals our core values.

Today, is World Refugee Day.

It is a time to remember how our many traditions require us to care for the stranger. To encourage Congress to act and to affirm the Governors who will not let their National Guard participate in the separation of families. It is also time to make sure we are informed. To help, Tanenbaum has updated its Combating Extremism resource, A Q&A on Refugees.

We can call the children at our border, and their parents, many names. Often, refugee, asylum seeker, migrant and undocumented are appropriate. But so is stranger. Let’s welcome them and treat them as each of us would want to be treated.

Doing so would honor our traditions,

Joyce S. Dubensky
CEO, Tanenbaum


Image Credit: John Moore / Getty Images

Masterpiece Cakeshop – The Five Key Takeaways

Friends,

I don’t know if you’ve been following the Masterpiece Cakeshop lawsuit or the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in that matter yesterday—but we have. It’s the case of a religious man, a baker, who refused to bake a custom wedding cake for a gay couple.

At Tanenbaum, we see this case as raising core questions of our national identity. We actually filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court because this case challenges us to answer:

  • How can we live respectfully and honor our differences as a religiously diverse country?
  • What do we do, when core principles that guide us—like the right to freely practice our faith and the right to live and go into stores without suffering discrimination—clash?
  • Where do we draw the line between a religious baker who objects to baking a cake based on his deeply held beliefs, and a gay couple protected by their state’s anti-discrimination laws when they want to purchase goods for their wedding?

In the decision, a majority of the Court agreed that the case presented difficult questions. Rather than answer those difficult questions, however, the Court focused on the conduct of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which it described as “inconsistent with the State’s obligation of religious neutrality.” In fact, the Supreme Court held that their deliberations reflected “religious hostility” and were neither “tolerant nor respectful of” the baker’s religious beliefs.

By ruling that the underlying procedures were unfair and declining to reach the difficult questions, the Court put these foundational questions off for another day. But that is only one of The Five Key Takeaways from Masterpiece Cakeshop.

1. “IT’s not over”… The court’s ruling was narrow… the question of how to implement religious freedom when it results in not complying with anti-discrimination laws is yet to be determined.

2. YES! Those who implement the law must be neutral and practice respect (including respect for religion and diverse religious beliefs)! The principle behind the court’s narrow decision is spot on. Those who implement our laws must do so in an even-handed, neutral way and that means…they cannot demean / evidence bias against / or ridicule religious beliefs (or non-religious beliefs) with which they disagree during a legal proceeding. And that principle applies both to regulatory commissioners and judges in our courts, whether they are secular or deeply religious.

3. The Court says the LGBTQI community deserves dignity…but members of that community still have to ask, “What happens when I get married?” Though the Masterpiece Court spoke of the critical need to respect LGBTQI people in the public square, there is now an aura of uncertainty for the gay community. Yes, they can legally marry. But they still have to ask: “Will I be able to purchase the wedding cake, flowers, or hire the best photographer in town?” AND, “Will I be able to adopt a child?”

4. The U.S. Supreme Court mandates tolerance in the application of the law, religious freedom, and in our treatment of the gay community—but what do we really mean by tolerance? The Court tells us what it doesn’t look like. But what does it look like? And how do we put it into practice?

5. The Supreme Court has a critical role to play in how our country moves forward. Objections to providing services based on religious beliefs can have long-term implications for religious freedom—and whether it survives for all of us. Freedom of religion is preserved in the First Amendment. To put it into practice, however, we rely on anti-discrimination laws that require people to provide goods and services no matter someone’s religion. Those same anti-discrimination laws also protect people against racial bias, age discrimination, bias based on ability status, and in some states, bigotry based on sexual orientation. If the religious beliefs of someone choosing to serve the public are legally able to undo these laws when it comes to a person’s sexual orientation, why can’t those same religious beliefs allow for discrimination based on a customer’s religious or non-religious beliefs? Why couldn’t a baker refuse to bake a cake for an interfaith couple, because one of them was Jewish and her Christian partner might be led astray? Or because the couple were atheists? Muslims? Sikhs?

So where does the ruling leave us, as a country? That, my friends, is up to us.

Joyce S. Dubensky
CEO, Tanenbaum

 


Photo credit: AP

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.”