(Arlington, VA, 23 September, 2015)—From 14-18 September 2015, the Institute for Global Engagement (IGE) led a delegation to Vietnam and Laos to observe first-hand IGE’s work with its local partners. The delegation started their visit in Hanoi, Vietnam, where they participated in our certificate training program on “Religion & the Rule of Law (RROL)”. Organized in partnership between IGE, the Vietnam National University’s University for Social Sciences & Humanities, and Brigham Young University Law School, this is the fourth time our program has been held in Vietnam. Previous certificate programs were conducted in 2014 (Da Nang), 2013 (Ho Chi Minh City) and 2012 (Hanoi).

Following their time at the RROL program, IGE delegation members were invited to speak at the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam, the country’s training institution for its future diplomats, on the topic of religion and Vietnam-US relations. Additionally, IGE was invited to speak about religion, security, and politics at the Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics (NPA), a national training center for mid- and high-level leaders of the Communist Party of Vietnam. IGE’s presentations at NPA were the first time a NGO was given the opportunity to address the school. Presentations were made by IGE President & CEO John Gallagher, President Emeritus Chairman of the Board Chris Seiple, IGE Board Member and Becket Fund Fellow Angela Wu Howard, and CWFL Fellow, U.S. Navy Chaplain Judy Malana.

IGE then met with pastors from the Evangelical Church of Vietnam-North to learn about the progress of the new Hanoi Bible College that recently welcomed its second cohort of 30 students. The Bible college is the only Protestant seminary in northern Vietnam.

Afterwards, the delegation visited Dien Bien province in the Northwest Highlands to meet with government and faith leaders. IGE met with a Hmong family and an unregistered church to learn about faith and Hmong traditions in Dien Bien. The IGE delegation also met with U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius to exchange experiences and perspectives about the progress, challenges, and new opportunities for religious freedom in Vietnam.

IGE concluded its visit to Vietnam with a celebration of its 10-year anniversary and partnership with the Vietnam-USA Society. Over the past decade, IGE has signed six agreements with seven key partners, conducting 40 religious freedom and peacebuilding programs for over 3,500 people from 40 provinces.

The next stop for the IGE delegation was Vientiane, Laos, to meet with country partners, government officials, and religious leaders. IGE followed up on the momentum coming out of the Laos Peacebuilding Team (LPBT) trainings and met with some its members and religious leaders in Laos. The LPBT consists of Lao government and religious leaders that will mediate local religious conflicts in the future. This project is a tangible demonstration of the Lao government’s trust in IGE and represents their commitment to work towards creating an environment for sustainable religious freedom. This team will begin to conduct village-level training in peace building and help mediate religious conflict by the fall of 2015.

IGE also met with the Lao Front for National Construction and discussed the progress of the “Laos Religious Freedom Education Dialogues” and the religious freedom situation in Laos. The dialogues focus on educating provincial and district-level government and religious leaders on the various religions in Laos, Lao laws, and policies guaranteeing religious freedom. IGE also met with the U.S. Ambassador to Laos Dan Clune to discuss religious freedom progress and challenges in Laos.

The Vietnam visit was reported by the following Vietnamese media outlets:

    VTV4 news report on the 10-year anniversary of VUS-IGE partnership, Religion and Rule of Law trainings, and draft law on religion, aired during VTV4 Daily News at 12:00 PM on Sep 19, 2015. (The portion on IGE’s visit starts at 20:00.)
  • VTV4 interview of Dr. Chris Seiple about the draft religion law in English and Vietnamese.

About the Institute for Global Engagement – The Institute for Global Engagement works at the critical intersection of religion and global affairs, building sustainable environments for religious freedom worldwide. Through local partnerships, IGE works transparently to convene, connect, and build consensus among government, religious leaders and scholars to ensure that people of all faiths and none have full freedom of conscience and can participate as equal citizens in public life. To learn more about IGE’s programs, please contact James Chen at jchen@globalengage.org.