Washington, D.C. – (August 6, 2013) – Since 2000, IGE has worked transparently to convene religious and government leaders in order to bring greater awareness to—and consensus around—the implementation of Decree 92 (the Lao government’s ordinance on religious freedom). Though Decree 92 has been in place since 2002, Lao authorities have remained open to dialogue and support to ensure that Decree 92 is carried out effectively and fairly. IGE has been invited in as a trusted partner with the Lao government to help answer these questions, and facilitate opportunities for dialogue on these issues with local government and religious leaders. While there are ongoing challenges, IGE continues to see positive change in Laos. IGE remains active in its engagement with the Lao government and religious/civilian stakeholders as we support the efforts of the government to bring greater religious freedoms and human rights to its people.

As a result of this engagement, from 10-11 July 2013, IGE and the Lao Front for National Construction (LFNC) hosted a meeting in the Vientiane Municipality for Lao religious leaders to discuss and review the progress of each religious community and the implementation of Decree 92. Ninety-eight government and religious participants, with representatives from several faith groups including Baha’i, Islam, Lao Evangelical Church, Seventh Day Adventist Church, Buddhist Fellowship Organization, and the Catholic Church attended this meeting.

The convening of this large group of diverse religious voices highlights the potential to yield positive outcomes and opportunities when issues are addressed through a collaborative multi-faith effort. This meeting was not just a forum to highlight challenges, criticize the authorities, or voice concerns. Rather, this meeting is a change agent—a sustainable forum bringing together government and religious leaders who otherwise would be very unlikely to meet. The meeting also led to practical recommendations that, if put in practice, would resolve problems with the implementation of the existing policies and ordinances on religious freedom. In addition, participants walked away from the meeting with the hope of continuing to convene on a regular basis so as to continue to collaboratively find solutions to current and ongoing issues.

IGE’s model of engagement seeks to respond creatively and with constructive candor to religious freedom issues in Laos and elsewhere around the globe. In order to bring about sustainable change, IGE has learned that those stakeholders who are the least likely to collaborate directly on issues of religious freedom and human rights must be proactive and engaged together. Through IGE’s work with government officials and religious organizations, IGE has catalyzed and contributed to sustainable change in the country, developing trusted networks of partners with whom to inculcate policies that ensure that people of any faith or no faith have full freedom of conscience and can participate equally as citizens in public life.

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 or our programs in Laos, please watch our four minute video or contact Dr. Stephen Bailey at sbailey@globalengage.org.