Corruption-free Religions are Possible: new book by Christoph Stückelberger

Corruption-free Religions are Possible: Corruption, the abuse of public or personal power for private interests is almost as old as humanity. This book focuses on the sector of religious institutions.

Religious institutions are normally not-for-profit. Religious organisations run 100,000s of profit-making specialized services such as hospitals, universities, schools, elderly homes, companies, banks, micro finance institutions, farms etc. They often have the legal form of a not-for-profit foundation, trust or association with a supervisory control by the religious institution. Profiting from these activities is then not distributed to shareholders, but serves to build reserves for the sustainability and stability of the serving institution and if possible, to support core activities of the religious institution. Some religious institutions have large properties of land, buildings and other assets.

Many studies and experiences show that a number of religious institutions are affected by corruption and mirror the corrupt environment in which they live. All religions are potentially and — in reality — affected by corruption. All religions are part of the problem, but also part of the solution. And between religions, denominations and countries are clear differences.

This book includes twenty articles from Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic, Catholic and Protestant perspective and international standards. It refers also to sexual corruption by religious leaders.

Corruption-free Religions are Possible

This book has three objectives: 1. to understand the mechanisms and roots of corruption in religions by analysis and information, 2. to encourage stronger commitment of religious institutions in fighting corruption as core part of their commitment to their faith and values, 3. to strengthen cooperation between people of different faith and religious institutions in order to increase impact in all sectors of society.

As Ethicist and Founder-President of the Swiss Chapter of Transparency International 1996-2006, the anticorruption cooperation between different world religions has been one of my goals for a long time.

Corruption-free Religions are Possible: Download for free and order print your print copy here


More info and print copies:

Corruption-free Religions are Possible. Integrity – Stewardship – Accountability. Christoph Stückelberger (Editor), Ethics Praxis No. 16, Geneva 2021. ISBN 978-2-88931-422-5 (online version), ISBN 978-2-88931-423-2 (print version).

Globalance: The Social Security System

The Social Security Systems must be further expanded as a key part of security. But the systems developed during the last seventy years in high income countries may not be applicable and certainly not payable all over the world as it is already under heavy economic pressure in high income countries to find sustainable financing e.g. of pension schemes.

In a globalised, urbanised and mobile modern society, former social structures in families and villages are often fragile or no more in place. Will Asian and African countries implement social welfare states as in Europe with pension funds, health insurance, unemployment schemes, or will it be different, reflecting different value-priorities?

With the boom of elderly homes as an answer to the ageing of societies such as in China and with Covid-19 pandemic and its boom of jobless people exposed to health without health insurance, the questions becomes even more important for a global world in balance.

Innovative models of social security will be needed. It includes social protection for workers in the ‘non-standard forms of employment’ (informal sector, temporary workers), decoupling of social protection from employment and policy innovations for social insurances.

Thoughts from my book “Globalance. Ethics Handbook for a Balanced World Post-Covid.

Globalance. Ethics Handbook for a Balanced World Post-Covid.Globalance. Ethics Handbook for a Balanced World Post-Covid.

Christoph Stückelberger, with a Preface by Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker. Geneva, Focus Series No. 57, 2020.

ISBN 978-2-88931-367-9 (Online Version)
ISBN 978-2-88931-368-6 (Print Version B&W)
ISBN 978-2-88931-372-3 (Print Version Colour)

Download for free and order print your print copy here

Online Conference on Spirituality, Religion and Irreligion

Dialogo,  the platform for ‘Dialogue between Science and Theology’, based in Roumania and partner organization of, organized its  annual online conference  on 21-29 May 2021 on “Spirituality, Religion, Irreligion and Society today”. Research papers have been presented.

In the final online conference on 28 May, President Christoph Stückelberger gave a presentation on Religious, spiritual, secular: three world views and its relevance for ethics and values.

All presentations on empirical, spiritual scientific, and historical aspects can be viewed here: (Christoph Stückelberger starts at 13:34).

Wow: Fire in the Heart! Unity in Diversity as the Fruit of the Pentecostal Revolution

May is considered a blissful month in Europe, when nature is in bloom, love grows and traditionally many weddings take place. May is also the month when the Christian Pentecost is celebrated (like today, Pentecost Sunday, when I am writing this text). Both love instinct and Pentecost have one thing in common: fire in the heart!

The large peony bloom from our garden in Zurich today is like an unfolded fan, like a white wedding dress that hugs the world. In the middle is the golden fire of the stamens that hold the blossom and the world together. For me the picture is a symbol of Pentecost.

However, is Pentecost more than a long weekend? Yes, it is no less than the origin of a world revolution that has lasted and continues to this day and the future. It came this way:

The followers of Jesus had turbulent times behind them: The enthusiasm to emulate Jesus with his vision and his values was followed by a total crash with Jesus being executed on the cross as a sect preacher and heretic. Called Good Friday later. This was followed by apparently strange apparitions of the dead man with the few friends who could not forget him – later called Easter. This gave rise to shy, fragile moments of hope from this tiny “sect group” that their life would have meaning again. This fragile longing for hope was followed by an event that I call the beginning of a world revolution: Pentecost, in Greek πεντεκοστή/Pentecost (Acts 2:1) simply means “fifty” and means fifty days after Easter. It is the number for fulfillment, wholeness and new beginning. The debt relief, as described in in the Old Testament Lev 25-26, took place every seven years. After 7×7 years, in the 50th year, the Jubilee year of debt relief and a new beginning was declared, so that everyone had the same economic starting opportunities again.

The Pentecost event is now described as follows (Acts 2,1-13): the group of those women and men who had regained courage gathered in a house (Greek οίκος, Oikos). Suddenly these people were seized by an inner turmoil, described as a storm wind, where a flame appeared on everyone’s head. I call it more understandable as ‘fire in the heart ’, just like with lovers. The vendors from the surrounding hotels and residents of the narrow streets of Jerusalem flocked to see what was hap-pening. These “enthusiasts” with fire in their hearts did not begin to speak in their own ‘club’ language, but in the many languages of the multicultural and international community of people in Jerusalem. These came from all over the world at that time, from Egypt to Iran, from Turkey to Libya, from Rome to Central Asia (enumerated in v. 9-10). They were “Jews, Cretans/Greeks and Arabs” (v.11). “We hear them speak of the great deeds of God in our own languages” (v.11) testified the people of this cosmopolitan city.

Why now do I call this Pentecost event the origin of a world revolution? This small group with the ‘fire in the heart’ won the hearts of people by taking them seriously in their own existence and culture – the mother tongue is the most intimate expression of this – and not imposing their own values from the outside, but translating them into the other culture. Their hearts were full of empathetic and energetic love (αγάπε/agape is the Greek word for divine, inclusive, comprehen-sive love). With this fire of love they broke through the walls of the then hegemonic world powers (Rome, Egypt and Persia are explicitly mentioned). This courageous small group formed bridges between people, cultures, centers of power and ideologies.

This ‘fire in the heart’ leads to respect for diversity and being different. This is only possible – without exploding, imploding or indulging in arbitrariness – because the courage for diversity is connected with the certainty of unity. This fire is a symbol of the love that holds the world together on the inside. Like the gold-yellow center of the white peony at the beginning of this text. Pente-cost thus becomes a symbol for unity in diversity.

And the house (oikos) of this Pentecostal community of women, men and children becomes a symbol of the world community. Oikos in the threefold sense of Oikoumene (ecumenism as a community of churches and religions), Oikonomia (economy as the fair sharing of the goods of this earth) and Oikologia (ecology as a commitment to unity with the whole creation). In times of renewed war in Gaza, dangerous US-China tensions, climate crisis and particular interests post-Covid: Isn’t Pente-cost there a stunning, comprehensive spiritual, economic, ecological, political, social and cultural vision and world revolution? The invitation for a new beginning for the post-Covid world community. Yes, we can, with the fire in our hearts!
Pentecost Sunday, May 23, 2021

One World – Diverse Systems …

OF Discussion Board n°15 – 23 April 2021

Question asked : “Does the world need to contain China and how?“

My answer: “… One World – Diverse Systems … ”

How should be the role of China in the world? Three options: 1. China is disconnected from the world, sealed off, as it was to some extent 1949-1979, based on self-reliance and autonomous development. 2. China is fully integrated in the globalized world and follows the Western model of so-called capitalism and democracy as many powers in the West hoped that China, with its Open Door Policy since 1979, would develop. 3. China is integrated in the world, but with its “Chinese Characteristics” of “third way” combining planned and market economy, socialist one party system with elements of consultative participatory processes and controlled civil society.The Ethics of International Relations needs to respect the diversity of systems as in option 3 while encouraging each other to become “better socialists” and “better capitalists” serving humanity.

Read the full discussion here.

Money and Morality in Higher Education. Seven Countries Case Studies.

How does the attribution of funds and their origin impact ethics in higher education? 52 This main question of this research paper leads us to ask three secondary questions: What is the evolution of the higher education domain? Who funds higher education and through what means? Is ethical commitment part of the funding strategies?

This research paper proceeds in a succession of two moments: 1. Identifying global trends related to higher education. 2. Focusing on some case countries, trying to compare them with the global situation. 3. Conclusions. The paper works with data from the World Bank and UNESCO. However, an important challenge was missing data for some aspects and countries.

The World Bank provides on its website a table with all the data they have on each country, until 2015. This was very interesting as I wanted to do a time series analysis, to see the evolutions in higher education over time. This proved to be impossible as there were many countries that did not have any data available, or only had data for one year instead of twenty. Developed countries had a complete panel of data, while the data from the developing world was pretty scarce. The conclusions, therefore, would have only applied to developed countries and would have been pretty useless for our efforts to identify the places where gaps between the local and average international situation exist.

The gaps would have most likely been even bigger if developed countries were only taken into account. This was even more problematic as the data missing was from the specific countries we wanted to use as case studies. Therefore, the methodology had to be adapted. Since sufficient data was not available, we switched to a more qualitative study; doing a lot of readings on governmental and international reports on the global trends in higher education. Data was cross-referenced to see if information was confirmed by other reports. Main sources used were studies by UNESCO, the British Council and the UN to get a general overview, but many other sources have been integrated on specific topics. This study had to differentiate between general data on education that focused mainly on primary education and the data on higher education. The responses to SDG4 seem to concentrate on primary education and this can be understood, as it is the unavoidable basis for further education and essential to the improvement of alphabetization rates. However, the fact that investment in primary education creates not only the biggest social, but also economic returns might also have something to do with the choice in priorities.

Data were also directly drawn from governmental national reports, by accessing their online archives. This was somewhat complicated, as sufficient understanding of each education system was required in order to make data comparable. For instance, some countries consider high schools part of higher education, which increases the numbers of students enrolled in classical tertiary education. We then had to subtract high schoolers from the overall number. In addition, sometimes linguistic problems occurred as some reports are published in national languages, and not readily available in English or French. However, with translations and additional research, reports could be understood.

Reasons for missing data in databases of international organisations such as the World Bank and UNESCO can be manifold: some data are sensitive and countries are not keen to share in an open international database for political and social reasons. In some cases, data are really not available or not reliable.

Most of the data collected in this study are analysing the evolution of higher education between 2000 and 2015, although where data were available, we went further back in the past. According to each situation, historical moments that were significant, were identified. Country progress data are based on information from the World Education News + Reviews.

This text is an abridged version of the following article:

Money and Morality in Higher Education. Seven countries case studies
2021, Leadership with Integrity: Higher Education from Vocation to Funding, Leadership with Integrity No. 8, Geneva, 81-125.

Download the full book via here

Hans Küng and Prince Philip – two outstanding champions of global values

Tribute to Hans Küng …
Hans Küng was a pioneer of global ethics and thus a key inspirational source for He died on 6 April 2021 at the age of 93. Hans Küng, professor of ecumenical theology, was one of the most outstanding Catholic theologians of the 20th century worldwide. He became famous with his harsh critique of the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church and the Vatican and made many proposals for church reform, especially in line with the Second Vatican Council. In the context of the search for global values, I especially honour him here for his outstanding pioneer work for global ethics, a World Ethic as he called it. He proposed a set of five core values to serve as common ground within and between religions and with the whole of humanity. His sharp theological and analytical skills and global knowledge led him also to apply these values to the global economy and politics.

Hans Küng grew up in Sursee in Switzerland, only twenty kilometers from where I grew up. For him as for myself, it was a fertile ground for ecumenical openness and for gaining a global horizon. Even though deeply rooted in the Catholic faith and church, he worked for ecumenical cooperation since his PhD on the Protestant theologian Karl Barth. When I founded in 2004 during a founding one-week consultation in Bossey near Geneva, Switzerland, I invited Hans Küng as the Founder and Director of his Global Ethic Foundation in Tübingen, Germany. As he could not participate, he sent his General Secretary with whom we explored from day one ways of cooperation. The approach was complementary, global, ecumenical and interreligious in both foundations. However, the Global Ethic Foundation promoted mainly Küng’s very rich and important concept of a world ethics, whereas at we developed a global network and movement with a global platform for dialogue, research and action and with an emphasis on the Global South and cultural diversity.

Küng invited me to the founding event of the World Ethos Institute (WEIB) at the Peking University in Beijing, China in 2012. Another common ground of Hans Küng and was to promote global common ethical values across cultures and continents, including China. owes much to Hans Küng and I warmly recommend that his numerous books continue to be studied as source of ongoing inspiration for a values-driven world in peace.

…and Prince Philip
On 9 April 2021, only three days after Hans Küng, another outstanding champion of global values died: His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth and Duke of Edinburgh. He died at the age of 99 years. He was not only the modest husband of Queen Elizabeth and thus to a large extent in her shadow, he was also a great humanist and early pioneer for environmental protection. He was especially engaged in mobilising the world religions as key supporters and drivers of environmental protection. As international President of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), he was in 1985 instrumental in inviting conservation organisations and faith leaders to Assisi in Italy. “He was the first world leader to understand that the religions of the world could be natural partners for the conservation movement”, wrote Martin Palmer in his tribute to Prince Philip. Palmer worked with Prince Philip for 36 years on this subject. Martin Palmer, Founder and Head of the FaithInvest Foundation, was inspired and supported by Prince Philip to continue to mobilise world religions and faith communities for development and the environment. FaithInvest is strategic partner of the Geneva Agape Foundation and also involved in

Hans Küng and Prince Philip have been two outstanding pioneers and thought leaders for global values and peaceful cooperation for humanity and for creation. Their lives encourage us to continue building on these legacies for transformation.

Christoph Stückelberger
President and
Executive Director Geneva Agape Foundation

Higher Education as Noble Vocation

The relation between academic and vocational education leads to a key ethical question: what is the value and the reputation of a profession in society? In ancient Greece, the philosopher was higher than the slave; in the middle age the priest was higher than the trader or teacher; in 2019, the CEO of an IT or Artificial Intelligence company is more reputable than the farmer. And from the perspective of Christian faith? Christian work ethics is revolutionary for education and the job market: what counts not is the reputation of a profession in society, but rather work executed for the glory of God (Soli Deo Gloria) and as service to people in need/to the society. And if work is only done for personal benefit, it often leads to exploitation of others. Therefore, in the light of Christian faith, a righteous farmer has higher reputation and dignity in front of God than a corrupt billionaire or a famous researcher who develops the newest autonomous weapons/drones to kill innocent civilians. An honest cleaner in this university has higher status in front of God than a selfish professor or pastor or priest!

“Vocation of the Business Leader: A Reflection” is an excellent document of the Vatican, published by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace under its president Cardinal Turkson from Ghana. Not only does a pastor, a deacon, a nun or a bishop have a vocation, but every profession. “When businesses and market economies function properly and focus on serving the common good, they contribute greatly to the material and even the spiritual well-being of society.…The alternative path of faith-based “servant leadership” provides business leaders with a larger perspective and helps them to balance the demands of the business world with those of ethical social principles, illuminated for Christians by the Gospel.”

Courage to remain truthful can be (sometimes) costly. Some time ago I met two friends: The first has a high-ranking position as head of a public company in Africa. He resigned voluntarily as he was not given the chance to implement the value-based integrity as discussed above. He had given up his position and the privileges thereof, the money and the politico-economic power in order to keep up with his principles of integrity. He thereby enhanced his reputation as a truthful and trustworthy person, a moral quality of which the people in his country were yearning for. The second is a friend from Asia, who had accepted a promotion for a top academic position in an institution, provided he could replace the corrupted elements within it, and build thereupon a culture of integrity with more transparency. He declared that he would resign without the instrumental support of the auditing authorities. These two examples show that one needs not only the necessary bravery, but also a sufficiently sound safety net to avoid falling into the insecurity gap upon leaving a position out of ethical conviction! Many more examples of personalities known for their integrity could be mentioned. Africans like Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu and Kofi Annan are only three.

This text is an abridged version of the following article:

Leadership with Ethics and Integrity. The noble vocation of higher education ethics
2021, Leadership with Integrity: Higher Education from Vocation to Funding, Leadership with Integrity No. 8, Geneva, 37-54.

Download the full book via here

Coronavirus COVID-19: Let’s stay together – at a distance

Corona year two: remembering the values of year one.

Let’s stay together – at a distance: This was my blog message last year – re-issued by the team at and still relevant.

Dear Participants, I address this message in the form of a personal letter to all of you, the 200’000 in 200 countries and territories around the globe who are registered participants in our global family of The global pandemic of the Coronavirus is now hitting people on all continents, within only three months.

I express first of all my compassion for and solidarity with those of you who have already lost a person close to you, who have lost your income and your job, who are separated from your family in another country or home, who suddenly have to teach your children at home, who fear to lose a semester of your studies, who do not have reliable electricity for online learning, you as university and business leaders who do not know how to overcome the financial challenge of your institution and you who tirelessly work in hospitals.

“It is war” said the Swiss government yesterday. A global war against a common enemy, a virus. Borders are closed, people have to stay at home in ‘self-isolation’ and many companies may collapse if financial help by governments is not provided very soon. My generation and our children grew up without war. My parents, grandparents and great-grandparents all experienced war in their lifetime. Many of you live in countries where you have experienced epidemics, war, droughts and disaster. For all of us, a global pandemic with this speed is new.

Coronavirus: Challenges and chances

What are the ethical challenges – and chances? How can we as a global network on ethics provide ethical leadership and orientation in promoting life, in higher education and in all the sectors that are affected? Let me share with you ten concerns from an ethical perspective and I invite you at the end of this letter to share your views:

  1. The Responsibility to Protect: as expressed in the recent statement, responsibility is first of all an individual task for each of us in order not to expose others and ourselves to infection in an unnecessary way. It is equally a responsibility of employers, governments and all sectors of society. Two extremes have to be avoided: panic and trivialization. ‘Facts, not fear’ enables the right balance of calm and reason and at the same time tough and courageous decisions where and when necessary;
  2. Speed, Slowdown and Self-management: for action, every day counts in this explosion of the spread of the virus, as the curves show. We are thankful to the authorities who have the courage to make timely, although tough decisions. On the other hand, many personal and professional activities have to slow down. A chance for new life balances. We can exercise and appreciate the value of self-discipline. Home-office and daylong studies at home can much better be managed with a disciplined structure to the day;
  3. Transparency is Compulsory: facts are key. Hiding or exaggerating facts for personal, political or economic reasons is criminal. Fake news can lead to panic or trivialization and can cost lives. All in all, the quality and speed of information sharing is impressive. The pandemic confirms the key role of multilateral institutions such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and is a warning not to further weaken such institutions as some governments have done over the years;
  4. Faith Matters: two thirds of humanity would describe themselves to some extent or other as religious. What does this pandemic mean for faith in God or for trust in karma as a way of existence? Many religious communities care deeply for the sick and lonely. Prayers, meditation and encouragement with hope matter. The worst thing religious communities could do now is to increase the suffering by preaching that such a pandemic is a punishment of God for individual or collective misbehaviour or a result of behaviour in former lives or if they disrespect state orders and continue worshiping, arguing that they place their trust only in God. So-called trust in God while disrespecting medical advice and caring is unethical and irresponsible. Medical staff and researchers who develop a vaccine are gifts of the Almighty;
  5. No Place for Conspiracy: uncertainty, lack of information and/or political interests often lead to all kinds of conspiracy theories, and this is the case also during this pandemic. Some already see the virus as a biological weapon of one of the superpowers to destroy the other power; others blame the 5G technology; others see some populations or ethnic groups as immune to the corona virus. Ethical behaviour means resisting such conspiracy theories, not sharing them on social media. Conspiracy ‘news’ – during and after the pandemic – undermine effective, facts-based solutions and can as a consequence lead to unnecessary persecution of political, ethnic and religious groups;
  6. Encouraging Innovative Solidarity: it is impressive how much solidarity is visible during this pandemic. The trade war is suddenly replaced by the need to help each other. Neighbourhood solidarity and young people helping older persons in buying food can be observed and encouraged;
  7. Economic Victims: the number of people who will die as a result of the economic turbulences caused among others by the pandemic may be much higher than the deaths caused directly by the virus. Political and economic decision-makers are now asked to contribute to innovative solutions to reduce and share the burdens of these economic effects;
  8. Globalization Revisited: The pandemic makes the positive and negative side of globalization a daily experience of billions of people. It shows our vulnerability through interconnectivity. The travel and trade restrictions show that we cannot depend only on a global economy, but need also local and regional supply chains. The pandemic will have a profound impact on future supply chains and will modify the way of globalization. On the other hand, the cyber world and internet connectivity offers fast adaptation to the new restrictions, e.g. by distant education, online conferences, tele-medicine etc. Let us learn from this pandemic to achieve a more healthy balance between the globalized and localized economy;
  9. Ethical Leadership: the pandemic shows the crucial importance of leaders who have integrity, honestly serving the people with the power entrusted to them and not primarily serving own political or economic interests. The pandemic shows the urgent need for such responsible leadership, which is something that we strive for and promote at;
  10. Lessons for other threats: this pandemic shows, that humanity is able to stand together and to act with speed and determination, characteristics that are often missing when facing other global threats. Climate change is a process as dramatic as the pandemic, but it is happening at a slower rate and therefore the political will to act in time is missing. Millions of children die every year of hunger and because of lack of clean water – why not act with the same determination and speed that is being used to tackle this pandemic to slow down climate change and to manage other global threats? is – fortunately in this situation – to a great extent a virtual community with our online library, online publications, online network and online academy. We invite you to use our platform as much as you can from home or wherever you have to stay, in a time where many universities are closed and online is the main way to continue studies, research and communication.

We wish you the necessary health and strength, ethical commitment and hope that we can overcome this challenge. Let’s stay together – at a distance. With physical distance and emotional proximity we can support each other. I invite you to share your values, experiences, thoughts, fears and hopes in this tough time of the global pandemic by sending a message to and we will upload a selection of them on our website

Take care, God bless you, paix avec vous, namasté, 安宁, kedamaian, мир, paz, amani, لسلام

Prof. Dr Dr h.c. Christoph Stückelberger President and Founder

Related: Corona Virus – the Agape Response