More than 200 Peace Justice Witnesses (PJW) have been trained around the country to be a praying and peaceful presence on the countries university campuses over the past two weeks. These PJW’s have been the presence of the church amidst the present crisis in Higher Education – they have spent hours on different campuses praying, observing events, building relationships with students, staff and security, extending pastoral care and speaking out as a neutral party when violence emerges.
This has been crucial as the stand-off between students and security escalates each day. PJW’s are given training and don’t have to actively intervene or place themselves in danger. Their ministry is one of presence, prayer and witness. This has historically been proven to be highly effective in reducing tension and violence in situations of potential conflict. The Peace Justice Witnesses are also able to collect information and build relationships that inform the work of the mediation team. The information they collect is also fed to a team of over 100 prayer warriors who then pray into the situations they are facing in real time.
Emma Brewster, a SIM staff member, and coordinator of the UCT team said: “We have a unique opportunity as Peace Justice Witnesses to stand in the gap on our campuses seeking to bring about peace and justice by our presence. As I have prayed and observed God has revealed so much of the deep complexities of what is currently going on. These past two weeks have profoundly impacted me”.
The team at UCT has been on campus for over 10 days, often working until the early hours of the morning playing a significant role in reducing hostility between students and security. There are also teams operating at CPUT, UWC and Stellenbosch University. The CPUT team in particular has had to observe and pray into some very difficult conflict situations.
When conflict escalates the PJW’s do not intervene but are able to call on the help of the highly trained professional mediator team who then directly intervene with students, police and security to attempt to restore peace on the campus.
The PJW teams are growing beyond the Western Cape with the first two training events having been completed in Pietermaritzburg. Training is planned for this coming weekend in Johannesburg and Durban.
The Peace and Justice Witness teams are part of the More than Peace initiative, run by a coalition of church organisations under the mandate of the South African Christian Leaders Initiative (SACLI). They are working closely with teams of professional mediators who are working behind the scenes at each campus mediating between the different parties at both a faculty and university level.
There is a desperate need for more clergy and lay people to volunteer as Peace and Justice witnesses! This is tiring work and so to sustain this Christian witness throughout the education crisis we need to spread the load as widely as possible. You can sign up for the Peace Witness team by emailing email@example.com. You will be sent options for training in your area. We would especially welcome clergy to join these teams as they are underrepresented at this moment.
If you can’t be a PJW you can be involved on the campuses in other ways:
1) Pray! Sign up to receive WhatsApp and email updates emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
2) Volunteer as a trainee mediator – our professional mediators need help to facilitate faculty dialogues and community discussions as part of the support for the broader mediation efforts on campus. We are especially keen for younger leaders and clergy to begin to develop these skills within this challenging context.
3) Trauma counselling – professionals who are skilled in counselling are able to volunteer to join teams who are engaging students and staff who have been traumatized by the events on their campuses.
4) For a donation of R350 you can help enable a mediator to work for an hour resolving issues on campus. Mediators began to do this work for free, but to sustain this work until a resolution is reached, we need to be able to help them sustain their families. The Warehouse bank details, who are administering the finances of the coalition, are included below. Use “Peace” as the reference.
The Warehouse bank details are:
Account name: The Warehouse Trust
Account number: 071 883 053
Account type: Current
Bank: Standard Bank, 4 Dreyer Street, Claremont, 7700 South Africa
Branch Code: 025109
Sec 18a certificates which allow you to make the donation tax deductible will be issued.
The South African Christian Leaders Initiative (SACLI) is a broad network that exists to connect and amplify the voices of Christian leaders from all sectors of society.