Make a “Bridge” instead of a “Wall” - Thoughts on Diversity and Inclusion on Religious Freedom Day - Bookmark has been added
*This is an English translation of the D-NNOVATION article issued by Deloitte Tohmatsu Group on January 15, 2021. If there is any discrepancy between the Japanese version and the English translation, the Japanese version shall prevail.
January 16th is “Religious Freedom Day,” which was set in the U.S. in 1993. It is a day to celebrate freedom of religion.
The day is not as popular in Japan not only because it was set in the U.S., but also the concept of religion and beliefs is very specifically unique in Japan.
At birth, you might pay a visit to a shrine as “omiyamairi (newborn’s first visit to a shrine to wish wellness).” When you grow up, you may have a wedding ceremony at a chapel with a priest. When you die, you may have a funeral at a temple conducted by monks and receive a “kaimyo (name for your afterlife.)” Those who have grown up in Japan may not find these customs weird, but for those whose culture and values are deeply connected to one religion/belief, these may sound quite difficult to understand.
It is not easy to explain those customs rooted in Japanese religious beliefs to those who are not familiar with Japanese culture. However, diverse religions and beliefs and their harmony, are one of the important factors that shaped Japanese traditional cultures and values.
At Deloitte Tohmatsu Group, diverse members leverage their “visible” differences such as gender, generations, and ethnicities as well as “invisible” differences such as SOGI (*1), professional/personal experiences, and cultural backgrounds as a source of “value” to empower diversity and inclusion not only to provide professional services to client, but also to becoming catalysts to creating a sustainable and resilient society.
There are various initiatives to empower diverse members with different religious beliefs such as providing designated room for prayers and adjusting working hours etc., just to name a few. We are trying to provide opportunities to understand and respect each religious belief as a “core principle” of value and culture.
Sessions with Muslim members are especially popular. Prior to COVID-19, we usually had a session over a halal lunch at office. Now at remote work, we held an online Iftar (*2) after Ramadan. Sharing thoughts on Islamic beliefs and being a Muslim and asking questions about difficulties in being a Muslim in Japan and differences in working in Japan, members learn quite new perspectives over interactive and straight discussions.
Post-event questionnaire showed not only interest in the culture, but also voiced importance of listening to a “live voice” of Muslim members in business as the number of Muslims is increasing globally, and the importance of Islamic market is also raising. Members are aware of the importance of actively listening to the voices of different cultures.
Also, the Muslim members do realize Diversity & Inclusion, gaining new perspectives too - as “Islamic world” includes various countries and areas, which have diverse cultures within.
*1: SOGI stands for Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. It is a broader term than “LGBT.”
*2: Iftar means a first meal to break the fast of the day during Ramadan -which is one of “The 5 Pillars of Islam,” including Prayer and Charity.
Religions and beliefs have been leading and bringing people together with common values in various diverse cultures and civilizations.
Having said that, religions and beliefs are not a “wall” to divide and separate people. They have a role as a “bridge” to connect differences between people, which entirely connects to the concept of Diversity and Inclusion.
It is often said that Japan is not diverse compared to other countries and it is deterring Diversity and Inclusion. However, uniqueness of the Japanese culture and background should bring something new to the table from that unique perspectives. Japanese culture and values may add to the initiatives of empowering Diversity and Inclusion, which is the core value of bringing “difference” into “values.”