IGE Makes Historic Visit to Vietnam and Laos
From October 13th to 22nd, a delegation from the Institute for Global Engagement (IGE) visited Vietnam and Laos. In each country, IGE met with the Deputy Prime Minister, the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, grassroots church leaders, and attended a U.S. embassy reception in its honor.
In particular, IGE president, Dr. Chris Seiple, signed an unprecedented agreement with Vietnam to work with the Government’s Committee on Religious Affairs in providing pilot religious freedom seminars at the provincial level (in accordance with IGE’s 2006 Memorandum of Understanding with Vietnam). This agreement was confirmed at the provincial level in IGE meetings with the Standing Committee of the Central Highlands and the Peoples’ Committees of Dak Lak and Gia Lai provinces (the scene of previous persecution). IGE also discussed with these provincial leaders how to better facilitate the introduction of development NGOs to the Central Highlands to serve the people there.
The highlight of the trip was participating in the 65th anniversary of the Evangelical Church of the South in Pleiku, the capital of Gia Lai Province. Attended by nearly 25,000 people over two days, the emerging model of church-state relations in this beautiful province is a case-study in sustaining religious freedom at the intersection of culture and the rule of law.
IGE also agreed to host a delegation from the Vietnamese Academy of Social Sciences (VASS) next year. This delegation will study Protestantism in America in order to better inform public policy regarding religion and the state in Vietnam. (VASS is the government’s official think tank).
The trip to Laos featured an agreement between IGE and the Lao Academy of Social Sciences to co-host IGE’s annual East Asia conference on religion and the rule of law. Planned for next fall, this international conference will be the first of its kind in Lao history.
IGE and the Laos Institute of Foreign Affairs also co-hosted a lecture by Ambassador Robert Seiple, founder of IGE, and a brief case-study of IGE’s work in Vietnam by Dr. Chris Seiple.
The delegation included Dr. Chris Seiple, IGE president; Ambassador Robert Seiple-the first U.S. Ambassador for International Religious Freedom, and veteran of the Vietnam War; Michael Morrison, the Director of the Center for International Education at Baylor University; Bob Creson, the President of Wycliffe Bible Translators, USA; Paul Park, Senior Program Officer for First Fruit, a Christian family foundation; and Hien Vu, IGE program officer for East Asia.