Washington, DC – (June 5, 2013) – For over 10 years, the Institute for Global Engagement (IGE), in partnership with its Vietnamese country partners—the Vietnam-USA Society; Governmental Committee on Religious Affairs; Institute for Religious Studies at the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences; and, Vietnam National University’s University of Social Sciences and Humanities—have convened government and religious leaders to build consensus about how to best make religious freedom a viable and sustainable social construct in Vietnam. Through IGE’s work with government and religious organizations, IGE has catalyzed and contributed to sustainable change in the country, developing trusted networks of partners with which to inculcate policies that ensure that people of all faiths and none have full freedom of conscience and can participate equally as citizens in public life. To date, IGE has conducted 3 Religion & Rule of Law (R&ROL) conferences, 1 10-day R&ROL certificate training program, 3 Protestantism Roundtables, 7 Religious Freedom seminars, and 5 Conflict Resolution Skills workshops in the Hanoi capital and rural areas, resulting in over 2700 people being trained on religious freedom in Vietnam.

With this history and network of relationships, on 14 May 2013, IGE was asked by the Vietnamese Embassy to convene a delegation from the Central Commission for Mass Mobilization of the Vietnamese Communist Party (CCMB) with American scholars and policy leaders. In attendance were Department of State officials Lauren E. Baer, member of the Secretary of State’s Policy Planning Staff, and Tomicah Tillemann, Chair of the State Department’s Federal Advisory Committee on Strategic Dialogue with Civil Society. Also in attendance were U.S.-based experts Brian Grim, Director of Cross-National Data and Senior Researcher, Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, and Dr. Chris Seiple, President of the Institute for Global Engagement.

Mr. Nguyen Duy Viet, Deputy Chief of the CCMB, led the delegation during their 2 day (13-14 May) trip to Washington D.C. The purpose of the delegates’ trip was to study: relations between the U.S. administration and its people; the mechanisms through which the U.S. administration receives public opinion and meets public demands regarding policies; U.S. laws and rules for the holding of referendums; and U.S. laws and rules for demonstrations and to petition government for the redress of grievances.

Discussion during the meeting focused on how the U.S. gathers information from the public regarding U.S. policies. The U.S. experts shared the successes of the “U.S. Secretary of State’s Strategic Dialogue with Civil Society” and how a similar committee could be beneficial in Vietnam. Likewise, the benefits of public opinion research and surveys to help governments understand perceptions of laws and policies were also discussed. Finally, Dr. Chris Seiple shared how people of faith can contribute positively to society and the need for theological education. At the conclusion of the meeting, Mr. Nguyen Duy Viet said, “The most important thing is to get the right information from the public and we want to see if the information is correct. Thank you for sharing your expertise and knowledge with us.”

IGE continues to work closely with policy makers and religious leaders in Vietnam as we seek to support the countries’ efforts to examine their own policies related to freedom of conscience and practice. In September of 2013, IGE and its academic partner Brigham Young University will return to Vietnam to conduct its second 10-day Religion and Rule of Law certificate program in Ho Chi Minh City, with the long term goal of building consensus around religious freedom for people of all faiths in Vietnam.

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, please watch our four minute video.