Christian Unions Ireland (CUI) is a fellowship of student societies across the island of Ireland with the common vision of seeing third–level students transformed by encountering Jesus, and transforming their campus, society, and the world.
Today it is part of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES), which connects Christian Unions across most countries of the world.
The story of CUI goes back about a hundred years to when CUs were first established in Dublin and Belfast. The first of these was founded in 1919, in Trinity College Dublin, by Alan Dixon. Alan was a survivor of the First World War who encountered Christ while reading a New Testament in the trenches. He invited some friends to his room for a meal and shared his story. ‘No.40’, as the group was named after the number of his residence, saw a number of students become followers of Christ. Shortly afterwards, in 1921, another CU was formed in Queen’s University Belfast.
These two CUs, among the oldest in the world, became part of a wider movement linking groups in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. That movement was known initially as the Inter–Varsity Fellowship of Evangelical Unions (IVF), and later as the Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship (UCCF).
IVF was one of ten movements from around the world that met together at Harvard University in the US to found IFES in 1947. Their dream was to see a clear witness to the Lord Jesus established in every university of the world. Today it has a membership of over half a million students across 160 countries, including many where Christians experience significant persecution.
By 1986 the team of supporting staff workers in Ireland was large enough to warrant the appointment of a Team Leader, Cassells Morrell. With continued growth, the decision was taken to form an island–wide, indigenous movement in 1997. It took the name IFES Ireland, and was independently affiliated to IFES while maintaining close co–operation with UCCF. CU members across the island link up regularly in regional conferences and the Ireland–wide CU Annual Conference. They also participate in IFES Europe events and the quadrennial IFES World Assembly.
In time we expanded the movement’s title to IFES Ireland: the Christian Unions to emphasize our connection with CUs across the country. Eventually, in 2016, we changed it to the simpler name Christian Unions Ireland, since it is immediately recognisable. Our links with other IFES movements across Europe, and further afield, are stronger than ever. We are excited to see large numbers of students “from every nation, tribe, people and language” (Revelation 7:9) coming to know Jesus, and desiring to make Him known.