The International Institute for Cooperative Studies is preparing to place Christian university professors in positions to influence the future leadership of a communist country.

Daryl McCarthy, executive director of the organization based in Overland Park, Kansas, has signed a protocol to provide professors for Vietnam National University in Hanoi. The new university, formed through an amalgamation of three universities in the capital city, is considered to be the flagship university of the nation. McCarthy also has completed negotiations with the president of the University of Ho Chi Minh, named for the Communist leader of the former North Vietnam.

McCarthy is actively recruiting professors who specialize in English as a second language, law, and economics. He hopes to have five professors in place by September. Some instructors will take a one-semester sabbatical from current positions, and others view the job as a tentmaking career move lasting several years.

While controversy over the recent establishment of full diplomatic relations with Vietnam continues to be debated in the United States (CT, Aug. 14, 1995, p. 54), the dilemma is not a question of politics for McCarthy. "We must remember that Vietnam is a country, a people, not a war," says McCarthy, who has led IICS since its inception in 1988. "Vietnam is a bruised and bleeding nation, which has been conquered, raided, bombed, and fought over for centuries. As Christ's agents of reconciliation, we are given the opportunity to extend his love to this people."

The significance of the IICS achievement can be seen by looking at mission statistics. There are about 20 Christian missions personnel from other countries in Vietnam, a nation of 75 million.

Bob Seiple, president of the Seattle-based World Vision, U.S., the largest relief-and-development organization operating in Vietnam, senses that the country's new openness could result in tremendous opportunities for Christians.

Last month, Seiple says, World Vision workers for the first time were allowed by government officials to bring in an unlimited number of Bibles from the International Bible Society. World Vision, which seven years ago became the first Western relief agency to return to Vietnam after the war ended, now has 150 workers within the country.

This is not the first communist country for IICS. The organization has had guest lecturers in China and teaching positions in Russia before the fall of communism. The interdenominational IICS contracts with public universities to provide professors, establish departments, and create curriculum. The host university provides the students, classrooms, support staff, and faculty housing. In addition to being cost-effective, IICS is able to provide biblically based training in locations where missionaries often are restricted.

WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY: With Vietnam, McCarthy moved as soon as diplomatic tensions eased. University officials eager to integrate with the Western world responded quickly, and McCarthy says the Vietnamese embassy has been the most helpful of any of the 20 countries where IICS has placed professors.

With the twelfth-largest population in the world, Vietnam is a developing nation, with more than half of the population living in poverty. The average per-capita annual income is $189.

"Vietnam really has been in an isolationist mode since the war ended in 1975," McCarthy told CT. "Marxism and Leninist doctrines have been enforced."

Vietnam is one of the last communist countries left in the world, and McCarthy believes it is important to begin to reach out and instruct those who will be the future leaders of the nation if there is hope for change.

Seiple believes changes are coming. "In time, I fully expect Vietnam to be an economic power," he says.

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