“The jury was impressed by Rupantar’s creative approach of using cultural performances to address sensitive social issues. Rupantar is truly working at the grassroots – mobilizing the most vulnerable in Bangladesh, including women and youth – to help build a vibrant democracy.”

Joe Clark, former Prime Minister of Canada and Chair of the Global Pluralism Award Jury.

Rupantar’s Story

Dressed in colourful costumes, performers sing, dance and play instruments on an outdoor stage. “Human rights are violated time and again,” they sing, “and yet the people are not vocal.”

While entertaining, the performance is also a call to action, urging the audience to claim their rights and protect their vulnerable populations. This is a traditional form of popular folk performance called a pot song. It is also one of the many tools used by the non-profit organization Rupantar to address pressing social issues in Bangladesh.

Rupantar, which means “transformation,” has been working in Bangladesh since 1995. The organization was founded by two individuals from different religions who shared a common vision for a just society. In such a complex setting, Rupantar has adopted a truly holistic approach to encourage social change and promote pluralism. Their work covers five programmatic areas: democracy and political empowerment, peace and tolerance, disaster management and climate change adaptation, children and youth rights, and cultural dialogue through popular media and folk theatre. With a diverse staff of 525, the organization is the largest awareness and social mobilization organization in Bangladesh.

Rupantar works at the grassroots level to empower vulnerable populations to be agents for change in their communities. They are especially successful in mobilizing women and youth leaders. For example, since 1998, Rupantar has helped set up 32 government-registered women’s organizations, empowering women to run for and win seats in local elections. Rupantar has also been successful in implementing the Promoting Engagement and Actions for Countering Extremism (PEACE) initiative, which connects youth from different social groups to promote tolerance and pluralism in their communities. They have run more than 200 faith-based dialogues in which Muslim, Hindu and Christian leaders develop action plans to combat extremism.

Rupantar’s work is extensive. Sometimes it takes the form of a dialogue between religious leaders. At other times, it is a pot song on land rights or a climate change awareness campaign. In such a complex country, their approach has to be multi-faceted. What is constant is the organization’s goal of mobilizing Bangladesh’s diverse population to create lasting peace, stability and vibrant democracy.

Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries in the world with considerable religious and ethnic diversity. The country’s history is marked by periods of colonial rule, poverty, famine, ethnic tension, political turmoil and military coups. Bangladesh continues to experience substantial economic and social change and faces a number of challenges, including political instability, corruption and discrimination. In recent years, the country’s social unrest has been exacerbated by violent attacks from extremist groups, reports of abuse by law enforcement and a humanitarian crisis caused by the arrival of approximately 740,000 Rohingya from Myanmar.

Adyan Foundation

“Adyan’s projects have successfully engaged thousands of citizens, bringing together youth, families and volunteers, to break down cultural and religious barriers and open up a conversation around shared citizenship and belonging. Despite religious tension in the region, Adyan is forging an inspiring vision for inclusive communities and spiritual solidarity across Lebanon and the Middle East”

Joe Clark, former Prime Minister of Canada and Chair of the Global Pluralism Award Jury.

Adyan’s Story

In a short video on Taadudiya, an online platform created by the Adyan Foundation, Jihad and Rita start a music school in a rural Lebanese community and children come from near and far to attend. In another video, Sameh and Hanaa tackle religious sectarianism in Egypt by bringing Christian and Muslim children together to play soccer. In another, Salam and Zeinab overcome their religious differences and develop a deep friendship based on a shared passion for their work in radio and television.

Founded in 2006 by a group of Christians and Muslims, Adyan Foundation works in Lebanon and across the Middle East to foster cultural and religious diversity through grassroots initiatives in education, media and public policy, and intercultural and interreligious relations. Their goal is to help people develop their faith with an openness towards others and a commitment to serving the common good.

One of Adyan’s most recent initiatives, Taadudiya, or “pluralism” in Arabic, is challenging extremist narratives of hate and violence with non-biased information on religious beliefs and traditions with videos of everyday people engaged in religious inclusion in their communities. In its first year, the online platform has reached 38 million people.

Adyan operates on many levels. Their interfaith networks connect youth, families and volunteers from different social and religious backgrounds to share experiences and strengthen mutual trust and understanding. Adyan’s academic branch, the Institute of Citizenship and Diversity management, conducts training and research, facilitates conferences, and promotes education on citizenship and coexistence. In 2007, Adyan launched the Alwan Program for Education on Coexistence, which establishes social clubs in religiously diverse schools. The clubs, which build social cohesion and reduce intolerance among children, have reached over 4,158 students in 42 Lebanese schools. Building on their work in education, Adyan partnered with the Ministry of Education in Lebanon to reform curricula and reshape the way that diversity is addressed in schools.

Adyan promotes pluralism by helping divergent groups find common ground. Despite the current climate of religious tension in the region, Adyan is forging an inspiring vision for inclusive communities and spiritual solidarity across Lebanon and the Middle East.

Lebanon is one of the most religiously diverse countries in the Middle East. Religion is deeply intertwined with every aspect of society – from government to education. Political divisions along sectarian lines have contributed to past conflicts, including the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990). The recent rise of violent extremism and arrival of 1.5 million Syrian refugees have exacerbated tensions. In a country where religion has often divided people, Adyan Foundation’s work to break down cultural and religious barriers and promote openness towards others is crucial to building peace. Adyan has now extended its work beyond Lebanon, with recent projects building toward social cohesion and inclusive citizenship in Iraq.



Somewhere in Southern Africa, LGBTIQ+ people of faith form two concentric circles, with participants facing each other. A facilitator asks, “What messages did you receive from others about being a boy or girl when you were growing up?” Once participants have shared their experiences, the inner circle shifts so participants are facing someone new. The facilitator asks: “What early messages did you receive about your spirituality and your sexual orientation?” The circle shifts again. “What messages did you receive about being a ‘good Christian’?” These participants are on a five-day retreat organized by the Global Interfaith Network for People of All Sexes, Sexual Orientations, Gender Identities and Expressions (GIN-SSOGIE). Part of the retreat is spent discussing strategies for transforming views about gender and sexuality in their faith communities. GIN-SSOGIE will support participants to eventually engage in dialogue with religious leaders with confidence and compassion. GIN-SSOGIE is helping to ensure that the views, values and rights of people of all sexes, sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions are respected. 

LGBTIQ+ people face tremendous discrimination, violence, persecution, marginalization and criminalization. In many countries, homosexuality (or being transgender) is illegal—sometimes punishable by death—and grave human rights abuses are perpetrated in the name of religion and tradition. In some contexts, religious authorities are fueling hostility by speaking out against LGBTIQ+ people and interpreting religious doctrines to exclude and promote violence against homosexuality and gender nonconformity. Among the harmful narratives is that there is an inherent conflict between being a religious person and LGBTIQ+. 

Based in South Africa, GIN-SSOGIE is a network of 480 individuals and organizations from 92 countries addressing the violence and persecution facing sexual and gender minorities. GIN-SSOGIE’s advocacy programs amplify the voices of LGBTIQ+ people of multiple faiths from the Global South and East in high-level political spaces that have been dominated by Western perspectives. In addition to preparing LGBTIQ+ people of faith to engage religious leaders in dialogue, GIN-SSOGIE’s programs guide religious leaders as they explore new understandings of religious stories and build more inclusive faith communities. The organization also develops media, policy and theological resources to counter discriminatory religious narratives and promote allyship.  

Thanks to GIN-SSOGIE, more LGBTIQ+ people are confidently claiming their faith and using it to strengthen their advocacy. GIN-SSOGIE has shown that religion can be a powerful lever for inclusion – a place to celebrate all human beings and to ensure that everyone feels safe, respected and free to develop a spiritual self.