There is not a way to perfectly guarantee our international students' safety. However, there are ways there are ways that we as IV staff can avoid contributing to the vulnerability of international students to the eyes of their families and governments, particularly for those who come from closed access countries. Here you will find resources to help you know best how to communicate about international students and how to communicate with international students after they return home.
Which students should we be concerned about?
40% of our international students are from China and ~15% from the Middle East, both of which are areas that tend to monitor their students closely. Based on the World Watch List, here is a list of other countries of concern.
What does cyber "security" mean?
Cyber security is the idea that we are beyond the "reach" of outside entities so that you can communicate freely. This can be accomplished through encryption and anonymity.
Has IV ever experienced a problem due to security in the past?
The progress of an emerging movement in IFES was ground to a halt due to careless communication at a week-long IV camp. A student convert to Christianity from Iran knew that his email was being monitored both by a Mint friend and by his government. Many parents have access to their children's emails and are under constant watch. One never knows and it is better err on the side of caution when student's lives and faith, and the gospel, are at stake.
What are secure ways to communicate?
ISM recommends that you not include (face) pictures of your international students or mention identifying characteristics (school, clubs, major, country-of-origin, etc.) in any of your newsletters. When communicating with your students or alumni, encourage them to use a VPN which will immediately improve the security of the communications. We strongly encourage you to stay in touch with new believers and seekers overseas. Video conferencing can happen with relative safety through VSee when discussing the Bible, praying, or talking about discipleship virtually. Private Facebook groups are OK, but be sure to constantly update your security protocols on Facebook. Feel free to communicate with your alumni using the apps suggested here.
What information should I gather about my international students?
As an IV staff, you will want to keep in contact with your international alumni after they return. At this time, for departing students from high risk countries, you should not send in a Graduating Student Form. If you have their home address, store that on paper and write to them using cautious language. DO report them in your AFR and AFR-Extensions. Your region’s 80% goal for GSFs will not be impacted by your lack of gathering a GSF for each graduating international student. DO collect GSFs for Christian students from low risk countries.
What is the safest way to connect my international alumni with other believers in their home country?
Please let ISM serve you in this way. We are working with a number of IFES movements to safely connect believers and genuine seekers when they return home. It is important to start this process before they return home since communication from the US to the US is much safer. Email chloe.papke[at]intervarsity.org to start getting your students connected back home.
What protocols do other agencies have in place?
Ministries similar to ours have policies that include using code language, dictating email servers, content posted on websites, allowable posts in social media, usage of phone, and apps that both help and hurt communication. You can download ISM’s guidelines here.