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Brian Grim Addresses the Community Plenary

Brian Grim addressed the Community Plenary at the 2023 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago, USA.

Good morning. I want to begin with a question and not a usual question. How many of you have a daughter or a niece? Raise your hand. Okay, even if you don’t imagine that your daughter or niece is sitting beside you, she’s 15 years old, and you bring her to these conferences all the time. She’s been coming with you to these every year, different conferences, and she said, “I have to go to the bathroom.” And, you know, she’s been in and out. You know, this is the third day, so she goes out. But she doesn’t come back, and she doesn’t come back, and you have this keynote speaker up here, and you really wanted to hear him, but she doesn’t come back. 

So you go out, you look for her, you can’t find her, you start talking to security, and nobody’s seen her. Well, this was a story that was shared by the vice president of Dell Technologies at our annual conference, the Religious Freedom and Business Foundation’s annual conference, “Stair to Overcome,” a couple years ago. And it was a true story, only it was a father who had been taking his daughter to the Mavericks baseball game in Texas, all the time they had season tickets, and she left to go to the restroom like she’d done many times before and never came back. She had been kidnapped, trafficked, and when the police came, they said, “Go back to your hometown and report it there because ‘we think it’s probably a runaway.’” 

He did what they said, meanwhile, she ended up in Oklahoma and was being sexually trafficked. The family didn’t know what to do, someone suggested that they reach out to a guy that helps with these things, and he said, “Send me a picture,” and they had no idea what he could do. He ran facial recognition software and within a couple hours found her on porn sites being trafficked.

Eventually, they were able to rescue her after a week. In some ways that’s a happy ending but not. That’s an ending that continues to be tragic for the girl.

Well the Vice President of Dell Technologies shared this because they as a company had embarked on a mission to combat human trafficking and let me back and where that came from.

Several years ago Dell Technologies merged with EMC another technology company and at EMC they had an interfaith employee resource group. Company-sponsored employee-led faith groups for people of faith to have a voice in the company, Austin-based Dell Technologies. They had a huge Christian Bible study that was unofficial but they had never become an official part of the diversity groups in the company.

Well, when they merged with EMC the Christian said you know we might have more impact if we would bring this interfaith group in and really channel our efforts together with people of all faiths within the company and they did and they started Dell Interfaith and as they met together they said what should we be what causes should we work on besides celebrating our own uniqueness and being an ally for each other and human trafficking was on their concern what was on their minds. So they started a global campaign to combat human trafficking held in 36 different countries and worked with a faith-based group of 21 abolitionists. For 21st century to combat human trafficking and in fact they realized that this wasn’t just a concern for people of faith they approached the head of diversity at Dell and said we think everybody would be concerned about this and that was the first diversity employee resource group initiative ever in the history of Dell Technologies led because the Christian group combined with the interfaith group. They worked together and they had people give testimonies.

The head of the LGBT group said often LGBT kids are cast out from their families and they’re picked up in traffic. The head of the disabilities group said the same with disabilities or people with disabilities are often targeted in traffic and then the head of the black group got up and she said when we’re trafficked they treat us as criminals. So this interfaith impact not only resulted in educating Dell’s hundreds of thousands of workers around the world on what they can do to combat human trafficking, they raised tens of thousands of dollars for this effort, and then at our conference when they shared this other companies — we had American Airlines, Texas Instruments, Ford Motor Company– all raising their hands and saying we want to do the same. These are the faith groups, the interfaith groups or faith-based groups in the companies. 

Equinex a big data storage company did the same and they did a global initiative mirroring exactly what Dell did. So the head of Equinex, this data storage company, said you know I never imagined I could have the kind of social impact I can have through my company now that they’ve opened the doors to faith. She said I thought I’d have to do it when I retired but the companies are giving me a platform to have social impact. 

So you know I’m talking about how business and faith when combined create strong and resilient communities. But this isn’t just happening in a few companies. American Express, American Airlines, PayPal, Dell Technologies, these companies are engaging in this. So at the Religious Freedom Business Foundation, we shine a light on this work and share it.

So I want to end with three takeaways. First is that majority faiths often have more impact when working with other faiths. Second, faith brings concerns that don’t fit neatly into other diversity categories, but transcends and empowers all identities. And the last is the next time you Google something, take an American Airlines flight like I’m gonna do this afternoon, turn on a Dell computer powered by Intel chips, buy something by American Express or PayPal, or do your taxes on TurboTax, say a prayer for the interfaith groups operating as official company groups and all these companies affecting millions of people, not only in the United States and around the world, we’re having the same kind of movement in the United Kingdom. We have a similar initiative in India. Salesforce, the big customer software company, has their faith force operating globally in their largest chapters in India. 

So next time you think of these companies, don’t just think of the products they have in that they sell, but think of the people in them, say a prayer for them. Ask God to expand this work and also pray for the hundreds of companies that haven’t yet adopted this faith-friendly approach that empowers people of faith to love their neighbor and make a difference in their communities.

Thank you.

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