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Business: A Powerful Force for Interfaith Understanding

Business is at the crossroads of culture, commerce and creativity. This means businesses have the resources to make the world more peaceful as well as the incentive to do so. Here are three examples from the UN Global Compact.

Coca-Cola Serves up Cross-border Understanding

In 2013, the Coca-Cola Company initiated a project to promote understanding and dialogue in an area experiencing one of the

longest running conflicts on earth by installing “Small World Machines” in New Delhi, India and Lahore, Pakistan. These machines offered users a live communications link to people on opposite sides of one of the world’s most militarized borders. Long separated by a border that has seen a number of wars, Indians and Pakistanis were able to use the machines’ live video feeds and large 3D touch screens to speak to and even “touch” the person on the other side. People on both sides of the border who had never met exchanged peace signs, touched hands and danced together.


Interfaith Entrepreneurship in Nigeria

In Nigeria, businesses and economic development NGOs are working to stop widespread violence, which has already taken hundreds of lives and threatens to lead to civil war. In Adamawa State in northeast Nigeria, young adults in many of Adamawa’s poor rural and marginalized communities lack the necessary entrepreneurial skills they need to break out of the poverty trap that often feeds violent religious extremism. The Yola Innovation Machine and others are helping a new generation of entrepreneurs create businesses. In the Plateau State in the country’s center, Muslim and Christian business people are cooperating to work around religious violence.

In Jos, Plateau’s capital, there is an unwritten rule that when religious tensions flare up, Christians and Muslims should not cross certain city boundaries. This divide can be devastating for fresh produce vendors and other businesses that serve people on both sides of the divide. In response, business people have taken it upon themselves to work around these limitations, risking their lives and not just their livelihoods to keep business moving across the religious divide. For example, a Christian vegetable seller – a widow with seven children – often cannot go to the market to restock her supply of vegetables due to religious violence or warnings of possible attacks. A cellphone call to her Muslim supplier can solve the problem. They find a discrete place to meet, agree on a price and make the transaction.


Indonesian Business Open to Faith and Action

In Indonesia, a number of businesses are undertaking a variety of efforts to promote interfaith understanding. One example is Express Taxi. With a fleet of more than 10,000 taxis in Jakarta, the company promotes a faith-friendly workplace by setting up prayer rooms and facilitating Muslim and Christian observances, as well as celebrations of Chinese New Year. Such efforts not only foster interfaith understanding but also increase worker productivity and satisfaction. In addition to accommodating religious practice in the workplace, Indonesian businesses also help meet the social and religious needs of employees outside of work, while at the same time increasing safety and employee retention. For instance, PT Kereta Api Indonesia, an Indonesian railway company, provides free rail transportation for its Muslim workers to return home to celebrate Eid. This is important because many would choose the more affordable, but dangerous, option of riding a motorcycle home.


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