Transitions within Vietnam (and to a lesser extent Laos) are creating increased opportunities for economic and civil liberties but are still at a very formative stage. Religious freedom and the rule of law are emerging as forefront issues, but there is a significant lack of relevant expertise. To remedy this shortfall, the International Center for Law and Religion Studies (ICLRS) and the Institute for Global Engagement (IGE) propose a project involving translating key religion and law materials into Vietnamese, an advanced certificate training course and conference on religion and the rule of law, and mentoring nascent experts through in-country and exchange programs. Based on our successful training initiatives developed in China as well as prior experience in Vietnam, we anticipate that this project will reach professors, graduate students, judges, and officials, and connect them with key international materials and experts on law and religion. Outputs and outcomes of this project relate to educating leading local officials from the region and securing their commitment and invitation to do more; negotiating concrete plans for future collaborative activities; and preparing and distributing materials in Vietnamese for academic training courses, all with the aim of establishing a politically-acceptable framework for further engagement and laying an intellectual foundation—as an enduring impact—upon which religious freedom reform can be based. This proposal is for specific activities in Vietnam to which a contingent of Laotians will also be invited. Present political considerations make a program in Laos impossible in the near-term. The hope, however, is that through the strengthened relationships and expertise resulting from this program, ICLRS and IGE will be able to pursue a future set of repeat activities whose scope would reach not only Vietnam and Laos but the whole of Southeast Asia.
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