Faith on campus: its not all conflict - 11 January 2007

 The Student Christian Movement, a long-established organisation which represents students from most of the churches in the UK has expressed concern over media coverage of the tensions between the Evangelical Christian Unions and students unions.

Before Christmas, the Christian Union at Exeter University had its union society status suspended because of concerns over its membership and committee structures.

SCM Co-ordinator Liam Purcell commented today: "SCM was saddened to learn this week that the ECU in Exeter has rejected the offer of mediation and, despite the fact that its temporary suspension has been lifted, is bringing legal action against the students' union. We hope and pray that a resolution can be found for this situation which respects both the ECU's freedom of religion and the student union's democratic and inclusive principles. We also hope that similar situations on other campuses will be resolved without recourse to legal action.

"However, SCM is worried that media coverage of these problems might give the impression that university campuses are the site of fierce struggles between aggressive secularism and persecuted faith groups. In our experience as a national movement, this simply isn't the case.

"SCM works closely with chaplaincies, students' unions and university authorities, and we know that conflicts like this are very unusual. On a national level, we meet regularly with all the major faith-based student organisations. NUS is involved in this process and has been highly supportive of inter-faith work, understanding the importance of faith groups for community cohesion. Our colleagues of other faiths have even gone so far as to say that there has never been a better time to be a faith group on campus.

"We at SCM know that faith groups and secular university structures can work successfully together. Dialogue, openness and understanding are essential. Public confrontation and conflict like this only make things harder for other guilds, CUs and Christian groups around the country."

The SCM urges Christian Unions and guilds to pursue the option of mediation and to consider involving university chaplaincies in the process.

For more information about the SCM see:

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