Students hope interfaith event will ease St Andrews tensions

By Charlotte Oliver, April 10, 2014

Jewish students at a Scottish university who have been the target of anti-Israel protests hope a “groundbreaking” interfaith event will help to improve relations on campus.

More than 80 Jewish, Muslim and Christian students came together at St Andrews for a day of historical, political and religious discussion — themed under the title “Co-existence in the Middle East”.

Speakers included Islamic expert Sheikh Hamza Sodagar, Jewish studies’ lecturer Dr Mia Spiro, and university chaplain Reverend Donald MacEwan.

According to JSoc president Joel Salmon, the event — which was organised by Jewish and Muslim students — was set up to “try to amend things a bit following a year of tension on campus”.

Last April, the JSoc was forced to change the location of its annual ball after protests from the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Since then, Mr Salmon has been working with Islamic Society president Nasser Al-Naaimi to encourage dialogue between his 60 members and students of other religions.

Mr Salmon said: “We wanted to make a statement that interfaith is more than talking awkwardly over a cup of tea. You can have heated debate as well — and it works. This is definitely the beginning.”

- The Union of Jewish Students marked the beginning of this year’s National Union of Students conference by hosting a question-and-answer session with Holocaust survivor Hannah Lewis.

The conference was due to debate a motion calling for a boycott of Israel on Thursday.

Last updated: 8:45pm, April 10 2014