Working with local partners to build religious freedom takes time, truth, and trust. This patient process is full of setbacks, and opportunities. This year, for example, IGE was asked into honest and ongoing policy discussions about Muslims and Tibetans in Western China, as well as religious freedom training seminars at the provincial level in Laos and Vietnam. IGE is also uniquely positioned for partnerships in Syria and Pakistan (once those situations stabilize).

As you read more about IGE’s work, we ask your support for our “think-and-do” approach, building relationships that enable top-down access for bottom-up impact. We do this by creating a space to talk about the two things you were told not to talk about in polite company: religion and politics. Such a space enables comparative scholarship that suggests practical policies and training for countries in transition. If you would like more specific information about the below, we are happy to be in touch with you. Thank you in advance for considering IGE.

THINK: The Center on Faith and International Affairs:

IGE produced two books: Religion and Foreign Affairs: Essential Readings, a reader edited by Dennis R. Hoover and Douglas Johnston, available now for pre-order from Baylor University Press; and, Muslims and a Harmonious Society, a unique compendium of papers from an IGE co-sponsored conference series in northwest China. Our flagship journal, The Review of Faith & International Affairs, also published four issues on timely themes: “Christian Perspectives on US Immigration Policy” (Spring); “Islam and Religious Freedom” (Summer); “Religion and Globalization”(Fall); and “Religion and Presidential Leadership in US Foreign Policy” (Winter). Finally, our annual Global Leadership Forum (co-sponsored with Old Dominion University) brought together U.S. and European military personnel and government officials to discuss Religious Engagement in the 21st Century: Implications for Allies & Global Security.

DO: China:

In July 2011, IGE partnered with the Institute for Ethnic Minority Groups (IEMG), a think tank under China’s State Council, to co-sponsor a “Religion and Security” forum on “Education and Social Development.” The conference explored the general and specific role that religious and secular educational policies and programs played in China and its surrounding region, with particular attention to Muslim communities. Candid and constructive conversation took place about the purpose of education, social development, and the presentation of a national narrative of citizenship in which ethno-religious minorities could feel at “home.” IGE President Dr. Chris Seiple also gave a lecture at the July 2011 “Religion and Rule of Law” certificate program held by Beijing’s Pu Shi Institute for Social Science and Peking University’s Center for Constitutional and Administrative Law. Dr. Seiple’s speech argued that the key to a society’s greatness as well as its stability is the degree to which a country’s ethnic and religious minority communities are treated as equal citizens.

DO: Vietnam:

IGE’s academic and practical projects served to encourage better governance of religious affairs and empower better religious practices in Vietnam’s political and cultural context. This year, 435 religious leaders and local authorities (including religious affairs and public security officials in the Northwest highlands) were trained on the Vietnamese Government’s religious freedom and church registration policies. The trainings were held in the Bac Kan, Tuyen Quangl, and Dien Bien provinces and were featured on the provincial television’s daily news. The trainings discussed the importance of compliance with the Central Government’s religious freedom policies at district and village levels and encouraged both sides to include/respect each other when dealing with religion-based issues.

In June, 20 international scholars and observers and 60 Vietnamese government officials gathered to discuss and compare religion and rule of law during the 3rd Religion and Rule of Law Conference in Hanoi. Also, 70 Vietnamese scholars, policy makers, and religious affairs officials met with Protestant leaders for the second time to have candid conversation about Protestantism in Vietnam. In addition, IGE took a delegation of Americans to witness religious freedom progress and the celebrations of the 100th year anniversary of Protestantism in Da Nang city and Vietnam’s capitol city, Hanoi.

Lastly, Vietnam’s global television station, VTV4, interviewed IGE’s President on its talk show, “Talk Vietnam”. The 45-minute interview highlighted the religious freedom work of IGE and its Vietnamese government partners over the last five years. The program was aired several times in March and April throughout Vietnam and globally. IGE and Vietnam plan to renew their official agreement, laying out a road map for partnership for the next five years, 2012-2016.

DO: Laos:
In early 2011, IGE hired Dr. Stephen Bailey as the Laos Program Officer. This year Dr. Bailey worked with the Lao Government’s Lao Front for National Construction (LFNC) to revise the religious freedom seminar agendas and participant evaluations that IGE and LFNC co-sponsor. These new evaluation forms provided better quantitative and qualitative information on the usefulness and effectiveness of IGE’s training seminars. In 2011, IGE conducted 8 seminars in the Luang Prabang, Salavan, Bolikhamxay, Sekong, Vientiane, and Luang Namtha Provinces. Since the start of IGE’s seminars in January 2010, 1251 government and religious leaders have been trained on relationship-building and the implications of the Lao constitution’s guarantee of religious freedom.

Also in 2011, Dr. Stephen Bailey led a delegation to participate in Vietnam’s 3rd Religion and Rule of Law Conference. Members from the Lao delegation included representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Justice, the Lao National Front, the Laos Academy of Social Sciences, and the Lao Evangelical Church. Laos plans to host a Religion and Rule of Law Conference with IGE in 2013. Finally, IGE and the Mennonite Central Committee signed an MOU to develop curriculum and training for Peace-Building Workshops to train the staff of LFNC and NGO Lao staff in peace building skills.

DO: The Muslim-Majority World and our new Women for Peace Collaborative:

This past year, IGE celebrated the graduation of 16 students, including 7 women, from the Global Engagement Fellows Program, in collaboration with the University of Science and Technology in Bannu, Pakistan. The program, in the heart of Taliban country along the Af-Pak border, provides an alternate to extremism for ethno-religious minority students through academic scholarships and classes on global affairs and interfaith harmony.

In addition, IGE is moving forward in the development of the Women for Peace Collaborative, an initiative that empowers multi-faith women’s NGOs, initially in the Middle East, as they build their capacity for practical peace-building through four workshops in Amman, Jordan, and a 6 month collaborative project. For more information on women’s religious peacebuilding in the region, please read the article written by Kristen Lundquist, IGE Program Officer for Religion, Security, and Gender, published by the Global Consortium on Security Transformation in June 2011.