Southeast Asian countries include nearly 9% of the world’s population and, according to the Pew Forum, a disproportionate share of religious freedom violations. Fortunately, there are emerging opportunities to influence reform in the region. With a strong platform established by IGE and ICLRS’ previous efforts in China and Vietnam, further opportunities have now opened to provide advanced training on religion and the rule of law with other ASEAN members. IGE and ICLRS propose to pursue these activities on a broader basis in Southeast Asia, expanding to Myanmar, Singapore, Laos, and Indonesia (in addition to critical follow-up programs in Vietnam); demonstrating our theory of change; and incorporating opportunities for comparative analysis and region-wide change. The heart of this proposal is an advanced certificate training program on religion and law for officials, scholars, and leaders, along with an essay contest that compares the formation of religious freedom in the region to that in the West, detailing the lessons learned, key individuals, and the issues and threats. In addition, the project will feature training of trainers, hold conferences and produce a publication to build a network of local law and religion experts, strengthening their reform efforts. The program also includes training on religious issues through the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam, engaging in direct scholarly exchanges between USSH-VNU and ICLRS that will largely examine the big question of “How Religious Freedom in the region and the world is/is not interdependent with other rights & freedoms, as noted in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” and how that impacts the global geo-political environment today.
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