Advancing Religious Freedom in Vietnam
Last month I got the opportunity to visit Vietnam and see first-hand the work of our partners on the ground in advancing religious freedom. I am pleased to report on two significant breakthroughs that your support is making possible:
Engaging Vietnamese Lawmakers
The National Assembly, Vietnam’s primary lawmaking body, is currently reviewing a major draft religion law. This law will directly impact the rights of faith groups in the country. However, in its current form it is seen as deeply flawed by many in the religious freedom community. The National Assembly invited IGE to gather U.S. legal experts to provide direct and candid feedback on comparing this draft law with international standards. National Assembly members will be voting on this draft law next month, so this was a rare opportunity to offer feedback which could be translated into improvements in the law.
Reaching the Frontlines
Last month, IGE conducted the first-ever provincial level training program on Religion & Rule of Law for both government officials and faith leaders. This took place in Lao Cai, a city in Vietnam’s Northwest Highlands region. Since most incidents of religious harassment or persecution originate at the provincial or district level, this was a valuable opportunity to change the mindsets of local officials towards faith communities.
Exciting Plans Ahead
IGE will hold a Religion & Rule of Law training program in the Central Highlands city of Pleiku in March 2017. Like the Northwest Highlands, the Central Highlands is also seen as a key frontline region for religious freedom in Vietnam.
A U.S. embassy official stationed in Hanoi recently shared with me that IGE’s “bread-and-butter programs are making real impact on the ground” and encouraged us to keep it up. Thanks to your support and partnership, we can!