From 16-27 March 2015, IGE, the Evangelical churches of Vietnam, and Eastern Mennonite Missions conducted 4 workshops for 143 church congregants on conflict resolution and mediation skills, including individual trainings for women and youth. The workshops were held in the North (Quang Ninh and Hai Phong), Central region (Da Nang) and the South (Ho Chi Minh City). During the trainings, participants worked on a list of practical steps about how best to build a peacebuilding culture at their church.

In addition, IGE and the Vietnamese Ministry of Home Affairs’ Committee on Religious Affairs (CRA) co-conducted a Conflict Resolution Skills workshop for faith leaders and government officials working on religious affairs. This conference—also held in Ho Chi Minh City—brought 105 representatives from 19 southern provinces and 6 different faith groups to examine and learn together about constructive ways to deal with conflicts.

Government officials, scholars, and faith leaders recognized the important role of religion in peacebuilding. Mr. Nguyen The Doanh, the former chairman of CRA, stated, “Reconciliation is a gracious act of humankind….true religions have the best advantages to do reconciliation.” The statement from Mr. Doanh, who has 40 years of experience working on religious affairs at the national level, is remarkable and encouraging especially for government officials at the provincial level as religion-based peacebuilding is especially needed at the local levels. The seminar was reported on the CRA’s website and three television stations: Vietnam television (VTV), Ho Chi Minh City Television (HTV), and An Vien television (AVG).

From 30-31 March, IGE and CRA organized a Religion and Citizenship dialogue (R&C) in Da Nang city. The R&C dialogue—titled “Religion’s Contribution to the Society”—brought more than 100 government officials and faith leaders from the central region’s provinces together to learn from each other and raise awareness of the positive role religion can play in their community. Representatives of eight different religious groups participated and shared about their humanitarian work.

The dialogue is the first event of its kind that created a unique space for government officials and faith leaders to exchange information and ideas about faith-based charity and the need for better religious policies. Faith leaders presented their request and urged the Vietnamese government to give more support to religious groups so people of faith can conduct more charity for their community, especially in education, public health, and economic development. Government officials working on religious affairs from the central provinces had the opportunity to build networks with each other and hear about the charitable work of religious leaders from other provinces. One participant who was a Catholic priest stated, “We, people of faith, and you, government officials, think differently and do things in different ways. For example, we would pray for God’s blessings before we start a conference like this but you did not. It is okay for us. We can silently pray as we participate at this conference. I feel sorry for you that you might have a better understanding and research on religion but you do not have spiritual faith. We people of faith care about spirituality and we are living with and living out our faith every day. But the important thing is that we help and encourage each other to do good for society.”

Participants at all the trainings expressed their desire for similar trainings to be replicated in their home provinces because these trainings will help build a peacebuilding culture and raise public awareness about the positive role of religion in public life. IGE will continue work with its partners in Vietnam to expand and deepen the Conflict Resolution Skills workshops and Religion and Citizenship dialogues to seize the momentum of change and deepen relationship building, understanding, and networking with stakeholders who care about enabling the positive role of religion in the society.

See below for related reports and press releases from the CRA and other Vietnamese media outlets:

    Conflict Resolution Skills workshop in Ho Chi Minh City CRA press release
  • VTV/Da Nang report
  • Religion & Citizenship Dialogue in Da Nang CRA press release