Arlington, VA – (4 September 2013) – Like many countries with diverse populations, Vietnam, Laos, and Myanmar face a host of challenges in developing a stable and prosperous society while enabling diverse ethno-religious groups to feel that their most cherished religious and cultural beliefs are celebrated rather than feared or merely tolerated. The Institute for Global Engagement (IGE) is committed to serving the most marginalized in the region—working at the critical intersection of religion and global affairs to build sustainable environments for religious freedom worldwide. From 22 September-5 October, building upon its 10+ years of engagement in the region, IGE will lead a delegation traveling throughout Vietnam, Laos, and Myanmar. While in Southeast Asia, delegates will observe IGE co-sponsored conferences that systematically equip local government and religious leaders to make the case from within their own cultural context that religious freedom is essential for a stable and prosperous society.

Through its many experiences engaging government, civil society, and religious leaders through continued dialogue, trust building, and training, IGE has witnessed gradual changes in mindsets. More and more, key stakeholders understand that protecting religious freedom is not only possible, but also in the country’s self-interest. Delegates will have the opportunity to view, first hand, the IGE mission and methodology, working to ensure that people of all faiths and none have full freedom of conscience and can participate as equal citizens in public life.

The delegation will begin their time In Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, where IGE is partnering with the University of Social Science and Humanities (USSH) and Brigham Young University (BYU) to host a ten-day certificate training program on “Religion and the Rule of Law.” This program systematically builds the intellectual infrastructure that will help guide the current and emerging generation of scholars, government officials, policy advisors, and religious leaders, equipping them to work on improving policy on religious freedom in their own contexts as a network for change. The first Religion and Rule of Law ten-day certificate Program took place last year in Hanoi. The delegation will also visit Pleiku, Gia Lai province in the Central Highlands, an area where religious conflicts have recently been reported, to meet with government and faith leaders. The delegation will then participate in the “Rich Heritage of Religious Diversity in Vietnam and its Contributions to Vietnamese Society’’ conference in Hanoi, sponsored by the Delegation of the European Union to Vietnam (DEUV) and hosted by the Committee on Religious Affairs (CRA).

Next, the delegation will travel to Vientiane, Laos to meet with country partners, government officials, and religious leaders. While in Laos, IGE will follow-up and build upon the momentum coming out of the 11-12 July meeting where IGE partnered with the Lao government to gather 98 religious leaders from across Laos. Represented at this meeting were Baha’i, Islam, the Lao Evangelical Church, the Seventh Day Adventist Church, the Buddhist Fellowship Organization, and the Catholic Church. The purpose of this dialogue was to meet with the government officials to discuss Decree 92, the only governmental ordinance on religious freedom.

Lastly, in Yangon, Myanmar, IGE is partnering with a leading Buddhist monk, the Venerable Sitagu Sayadaw—who has publicly opposed the recent sectarian violence and has called for inclusion of all religious faiths—to hold an unprecedented conference on “religion, peace, security, and co-existence.” A recent piece written by Archbishop Charles Maung Bo and Christian Solidarity Worldwide’s Benedict Rogers highlights the need for a conference such as this: “An equally urgent challenge that must be addressed is religious harmony (…) the violence and anti-Muslim propaganda has highlighted a deep-seated issue in Myanmar society: how to live with our deepest differences. No society can be truly democratic, free and peaceful if it does not respect – and even celebrate – political, racial, and religious diversity, as well as protect the basic human rights of every single person, regardless of race, religion, or gender.” The conference will bring together regional experts from Central, South, and Southeast Asia as well as global scholars as they comparatively examine the inter-relationships between and among education, religion, and security, in the context of co-existence in a multiethnic and multi-faith society. Along with Venerable Sitagu Sayadaw, IGE is also partnering with the Judson Research Center at the Myanmar Institute for Theology, the Myanmar Council of Churches, and the Catholics Bishops’ Conference of Myanmar.

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 overseas programs, please contact Mr. James Chen, Vice-President for Overseas Programs at