On 17 November 2010, the U.S. Department of State’s Office of International Religious Freedom released its annual report documenting the status of religious freedom in every country of the world. During introductory remarks, the Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, Michael Posner, highlighted the formal agreement that the Institute for Global Engagement (IGE) signed with the Lao Government in March 2010 that institutionalized local training seminars for government officials and religious leaders on religion policy.

Commenting on IGE’s continued role in advancing international religious freedom, IGE President Dr. Chris Seiple noted, “We are blessed that the practical effectiveness of our relational diplomacy’s top-down/bottom-up approach has been internationally recognized, and we are excited about the application of this model to other countries in the region, as well as worldwide. While it is critical to get people out of jail who have been imprisoned for their beliefs, it is indeed possible to help change the environment so that they don’t go to jail in the first place.”

In 2010, IGE trained over 530 local Lao government and religious leaders through seven seminars in seven different provinces. There have been no religious freedom incidents in those provinces this year. IGE is sponsoring similar seminars in Vietnam. IGE has contributed significantly to the legal recognition of over 1,000 churches and places of worship in the last five years, primarily in the Central and Northwest Highlands of Vietnam.

To read more about how IGE’s work supports religious freedom in Laos and Vietnam, click here.