Chaplains have a variety of roles and skills relevant to building good relations on campus. They are familiar with handling issues relating to religion, bring knowledge of one or more faiths, and have contacts with individuals who can be called upon for advice on a range of faith-related issues.
With their dual commitment to their faith tradition and the university, chaplains seek the good of the university and the development of positive expressions of faith within it. Part of that is working to build relationships both within the university and between the university and the wider community. Typically, they have contact with all faith groups on campus and local interfaith networks.
Chaplains have an ongoing role of listening, educating, and bringing people together for dialogue, socialising, worship and learning. They can also be called upon for advice on religious issues, including what contributes to good relations between religions and between those who do not hold such a faith, and on specific matters which arise on campus.
The Variety of Roles
The relationship that universities have with their chaplaincies vary widely. The faith of the chaplain, the funding of chaplains, facilities such as prayer rooms, the management arrangements and so on. Universities should give due regard to the processes of recruitment by considering measures such as DBS checks and consulting with appropriate faith groups.
What all universities share is a requirement by the Prevent duty guidance that their students are provided with sufficient pastoral and chaplaincy support. As part of this requirement, institutions are required to have clear and widely available policies on the use of prayer rooms and other faith-related facilities: such policies should include arrangement for managing these facilities such as through an oversight committee, and for dealing with issues that may arise through use of those facilities.
Chaplains’ responsibilities vary widely in relation to the Prevent duty. Some have a key role in implementing the duty, some may be part of Prevent steering / working groups whereas some may occupy neither of these roles. Universities and chaplains must find a solution that respects the independence of the role of chaplain whilst also ensuring a coherent approach to protecting students from extremism.
Chaplains are also well-placed through their ongoing relationships with students to identify and discuss changes in behaviour or outlook and provide advice and support where necessary. Universities may therefore wish to consider whether chaplains are appropriate staff to be trained in an understanding of factors that make people support terrorist ideologies or engage in terrorist-related activity, so as they can be helped to recognise vulnerability and what action to take in these instances as recommended in the Prevent guidance.
Relevant Chaplaincy Organisations
There are a number of resources available to support universities and chaplains in good campus relations. The Safe Campus Communities Interfaith Relations page contains links to resources by the National Union of Students, the Equality Challenge Unit and Universities UK. There are also a number of membership organisations that may be of relevance to chaplains as an opportunity to network with peers. Some of such organisations may also discuss developments in Prevent and counter-extremism legislation with their members: