A group of 17 business men and women from around the world are finalists for a new award that honors achievement in interfaith relations in both global and local business communities.
The Global Business & Interfaith Peace Awards are given by The Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, a U.S.-based nonprofit, together with the United Nations Global Compact’ Business for Peace initiative to honor current or past business CEOs for leadership in promoting and fostering interfaith understanding.
The winners will be announced on Sept. 6, 2016, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, home of the 2016 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games. Judges will name Gold, Silver and Bronze medalists.
“Business leaders are increasingly aware they have a responsibility to do good and not just make a profit,” said Brian Grim, the president and founder of The Religious Freedom & Business Foundation. “Part of doing good is addressing some of the really tough challenges we face, such as extremism and communal conflict.”
The finalists come from around the world and a variety of business and religious backgrounds. They are:
*Jonathan Berezovsky, CEO, Migraflix, Brazil – Migraflix helps immigrants and refugees integrate into Brazil by promoting the idea that people of different religions can come together, especially through music.
*Aziz Abu Sarah and Scott Cooper, co-founders and co-CEOs, MEJDI Tours, Virginia, U.S. and Israel – MEJDI Tours brings together Israeli and Palestinian guide for “dual narrative” tours throughout the Middle East.
*Michael Feder, founder and CEO, PrayerSpark, Nevada, U.S. and worldwide – Non-denominational PrayerSpark allows people to send prayers or positive affirmations drawn from the world’s faith traditions. Revenues raised on the site support local faith causes.
*Frank Fredericks, CEO, Mean Communications, New York, U.S. and worldwide – Mean Communications’ “Do One Thing for Diversity and Inclusion” social media campaign promoted, tolerance, diversity and understanding.
*Kathy Ireland, founder and president, kathy ireland Worldwide, U.S. and worldwide – kathy ireland Worldwide supports Hardwired, a women-led educational initiative in Iraq and Sudan. She has also drawn attention to the plight of Yazidi women escaping oppression.
*Yaya Winarno Junardy, president-commissioner, PT Rajawali Corpora, Indonesia – Junardy has facilitated the marriages of thousands of poor Indonesians, which bestows upon them and their children legal status necessary for advancement in Indonesian society.
*Zahi Khouri, chairman and CEO, National Beverage Company, Palestine – Khouri helped launch the Breaking the Impasse Initiative (BTI), which brought together Palestinian and Israeli business and civil leaders in a quest for peace.
*Don Larson, founder and CEO, Sunshine Nut Company, Mozambique – Larson and his company have helped revive Mozambique’s war-ravaged cashew business through the planting of new trees and the restoration of jobs.
*Fouad M. Makhzoumi, executive chairman-CEO, Future Pipe Industries Group Limited, U.A.E. and Lebanon – Makhzoumi’s foundation empowers people and promotes religious freedom through microcredit training. It has helped over 10,000 Lebanese set up sustainable businesses, and more are receiving vocational training.
*H. Bruce McEver, co-founder and president, Berkshire Capital Securities LLC, Connecticut, U.S. and UK – McEver’s foundation cultivates inter-religious understanding and practical skills through collaboration with partners, such as regional Harvard Business School Clubs.
*Emma Nicholson, Baroness of Winterbourne, executive chairman, Iraq Britain Business Council, and founder and chairman, AMAR Foundation, U.K. and Iraq – In an effort to rebuild what ISIS (Daesh) has destroyed, Baroness Nicholson works to build up business, technology, trade and investment in Iraq, with a special focus on women of religious minorities, like Yazidis.
*Joaquim Augusto Sanches Pereira, CEO, Cuascor do Braxil Dresser-Rand, a Siemens Business (Guascor do Brasil), Brazil – Periera works with the Vaga Lume initiative promoting religious understanding, peace and cultural diversity through literary programs for children, teenagers and adults in the religiously diverse Amazon region.
*Mehool H. Sanghrajka, founder and CEO, Learning Possibilities Group, U.K. – Sanghrajka conceived the JAINpedia project, the most authoritative online Jain encyclopedia using the collections of the major Institutions in the U.K.
*Jonathan Shen Jian, CEO, Shinework Media, China – Shinework Media’s films promote global cultural diversity and interfaith understanding in China’s media market of one billion people through his film work.
*Abdo Ibrahim El Tassi, President and CEO, Peerless Garments LP, Canada – Through a variety of projects, El Tassi helps immigrants to Canada learn marketable skills. He has also has provided immigrants with $1.7 million in interest-free loans to cover business startups, mortgages and university tuition.
*Tayyibah Taylor, CEO and founder, Azizah Magazine and WOW Publishing, Inc., Georgia, U.S. – Taylor, who died in 2014, used her magazine to help Muslim women and people of other faiths better understand Islam.
*Brittany Underwood, founder and president, AKOLA, Texas, U.S., and Uganda – Akola trains and employs Ugandan women and Underwood has developed a Dallas-based organization that employs women rescued from trafficking.
Grim said the finalists, who include Christians, Jews, Muslims and Jains, exemplify the mission of The Religious Freedom & Business Foundation — to show that religious freedom fosters a fertile business climate.
“These business leaders show you don’t have to check your faith at the door when you come to work,” Grim said. “You can bring your whole self to work, and when you do, you see places where you can make a difference in the issues of the day.”
Finalists were chosen by a panel of global experts from the United Nations, the religious freedom community, and the business and peace community. The judges determining the winners are H.E. Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, the UN High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations, Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett, president of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights & Justice, and Per L. Saxegaard, founder and executive chairman of the Business for Peace Foundation in Oslo, Norway. The Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding and its CEO, Joyce S. Dubensky, provided additional expert input during the judging process.
The finalists were judged in four areas – on the nature of their core business, their social investment and philanthropy, their advocacy and public policy engagement, and their partnership and collective action in their communities and beyond.
This is the first iteration of the awards; they will return every two years, timed to both the Winter and Summer Olympics.