During a ceremony held in Hanoi on June 27, 2018, IGE received a special award from the Vietnamese government for building mutual understanding and reconciliation between the U.S. and Vietnam as well as between the Vietnamese government and its people. The award, given by the Vietnamese Union of Friendship Organizations, honored IGE founder Ambassador Robert Seiple, president emeritus Chris Seiple, and Vietnam program manager Hien Vu. Former Vietnamese Ambassador to the U.S. Nguyen Tam Chien stated, “Religious freedom has been regarded as more sensitive even than military issues, but IGE’s work over the past 15 years in this area is successful because of our mutual trust and respect.” 

The award ceremony was reported on by Vietnam’s national television VTV4, starting at 5:37.

The award ceremony was part of IGE’s annual Vietnam visit that took place from June 25-29. IGE led a delegation of journalists, academics, and private sector leaders to take part in two major Religion and Rule of Law (RROL) events in Hanoi, connect with Vietnamese religious and government leaders, as well as to examine the implementation of Vietnam’s newly-passed Law on Religion and Belief. Organizations represented in the IGE delegation include: University of Washington Jackson School of International Studies, Christianity Today, King’s School (Seattle, WA), and Crista Senior Living.

During the trip, the IGE delegation met with both registered and unregistered house churches to learn more about the status of religious freedom in Vietnam. The conversations focused on registration, church-government relations, and the implementation of the new religion law. IGE’s delegates heard about both gradual improvements and continuing legal and political challenges that religious communities face.

IGE also met with the Governmental Committee on Religious Affairs and engaged in candid discussion about the religion law and its implementation. IGE had the opportunity to convey what was heard from local religious leaders to the Committee as well as members of Vietnam’s National Assembly.

A significant component of religious freedom is allowing people of faith to make positive contributions to society. To learn more about the impact of Vietnamese faith-based organizations, the IGE delegation examined different examples including the Aquila Drug Rehabilitation Center whose efforts at treating addicts have far exceeded state-run counterparts and has been recognized by the Vietnamese government. One of the goals of IGE’s work in Vietnam is to enable ministries such as Aquila to operate with greater capacity and freedom for the benefit of all of Vietnam’s people.

Vietnam program manager Hien Vu shares more about the trip in this 10 minute Facebook Live interview.