At the training, participants not only had the opportunity to connect with one another, but they were able to openly discuss their faith practice and desire to contribute to the country’s political and civil organizations with authorities at village, provincial, and central levels. Due to the lack of understanding regarding the central government’s religious policy at the local level, participants realized the crucial need for religious leaders and local authorities to build relationships, learn, and clarify religious policy together with CRA’s staff from Hanoi (Vietnam’s capital). Additionally, participants discussed the need to register more Protestant meeting places, as well as the government’s registration criteria, especially for common worship places (church and construction). At the seminars, authorities recognized social stability and harmony between religious leaders and authorities in the areas where churches are officially registered. These authorities plan to register more churches. Both groups expressed their commitment towards mutual support to ensure increased church registration and consistent implementation of the central government’s religious policies within their communities. For example, during the seminar in Ha Giang province, local authorities discussed registration for Buddhists religious activities.

According to CRA’s statistics, Lao Cai province is home to 21,000 Protestants, with a total of 160 churches (called worshipping places in Vietnam), of which 48 are officially registered with the government. Likewise, Cao Bang province is officially home to 16,000 Protestants and there are a total of 150 churches, of which 85 are registered. Ha Giang province has 25,000 Protestants, 186 churches, of which 34 are registered. All three provinces plan to register more Protestant groups in the future. These training seminars—part of the Vietnamese government’s efforts to increase church registration and ensure religious freedom at the local level—equip both authorities and religious leaders to better understand—together—the importance of religious policies, and their proper implementation at the local level.

IGE and CRA have collaborated on a series of training seminars since 2010. IGE and CRA will conduct more training seminars in May 2013. Also, a national certificate course on religion and the rule of law will be conducted in Ho Chi Minh City in September 2013, building on the success of the first-ever certificate course in December 2012. 

To learn more (in Vietnamese) about the seminar in Cao Bang province, visit CRA’s website.