IGE Gathers Feedback in Laos Regarding its only Decree on Religious Freedom
At the request of—and in partnership with the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the Lao Front for National Construction (LFNC)—the Institute for Global Engagement (IGE) conducted three “Decree 92 Feedback” seminars in Vientiane Province (27-28 August, and 23-24 September), and in Champasak Province (13-14 September). Decree 92 is the Lao government’s primary policy document regarding how religious freedom is to be implemented in the Lao PDR. The purpose of the “Decree 92 Feedback” seminars is for government officials to hear what religious minority group leaders believe should be revised and clarified in the decree. The feedback gained from these three seminars will be used to inform the planned revision process to be conducted by the Lao government later this year or in early 2013. (Also at the request of the Lao government, IGE has previously submitted its own feedback.)
The degree of openness and free feedback from the religious leaders was unprecedented. For example, some of the recommended revisions seek greater:
Clarity on the right to meet for religious purposes in private homes;
- Transparency on the right to celebrate religious festivals / holy days without going through a lot of bureaucracy to get permission;
- Improvement of the process for getting permission to register a new religious organization;
- Enhancement of the process for opening a new religious temple, church, or mosque; and,
- Freedom for religious leaders to teach and propagate their faith within their home province freely without government approval.
IGE is very encouraged by the results from the three seminars. These seminars are a breakthrough in the ongoing dialogue between the Lao government and leaders of religious minority groups. IGE and its Lao country partners are hopeful that the revised Decree 92 will be ratified into official law of the Lao P.D.R. in the near future.