Gateway News Volunteer Reporter Claire Sally Roos caught up with a friend who studies at the University of the Free State and asked her some questions (see below) regarding what she experienced.
Claire writes: “What I gleaned from her replies is that age-old truth that sometimes it takes some form of persecution to mobilise the church. I pray that this mobilisation will not die down when the unrest subsides, but that the Bride of Christ will begin to live radically for her Bridegroom!”
1. What was your personal experience of the clashes on UFS Campus?
Last week I saw the workers striking on campus and listened to a man explain to some students why they are on strike. Campus soon looked dirty and unkempt.
On Monday I saw some students gathering support for the strike. Later the evening I learned about the events that happened at the rugby match via friends, whatsapp and social media.
2. What do you feel was the driving force and motivation behind it?
There are quite a number of possibilities:
a) Political parties are pushing it. They helped to start this. They are not only taking advantage of it.
b)Past hurts and underlying racism have not been forgiven and healed.
c)These attitudes toward capitalism has been bred by the courses run at the university. I am a sociology-elective student myself and the handbook we use speaks very negatively towards capitalism as well as the link between capitalism and Protestants as well as the link between Christianity and colonialism.
d) This is part of an international uprising. The Arab Springs were also ignited by youth protests in Egypt.
e) This is a spiritual battle. The enemy wants to destroy SA and prevent God’s plan for the nation being realised.
3. How did you experience the general student body’s response to be when they saw the clashes?
Well. Stories exploded on social media!Students became swept up in the group and did things or said things they would not necessarily do or say on their own. The violent reactions are very disappointing.
4. How did you experience the prayer initiatives that followed?
I am overjoyed by the reaction from churches praying. Some people I never knew were Christians suddenly promoted and attended prayer groups. The body of believers are not ashamed of praying.
I did not experience that the churches were ‘choosing sides’. The battle is not against people (NB: Ephesians 6). The church prays against the spirit of racism and violence.
5. Can you give any testimonies from these experiences?
One of the prayer meetings I attended only had four people there. We had good dialogue. Healing conversations! I could voice my personal experience regarding race and could hear the others’ experiences. We have been so scared to share our feelings on thoughts about racism. We haven’t even allowed ourselves to be honest.
At another prayer meeting the Holy Spirit dropped this sentence in my heart: “If I close my eyes, I cannot feel the colour of your skin”. We are all flesh and skin housing a spirit being. In Christ there is neither black nor white.
6. What do you believe God wants to do on UFS campus following these clashes and how do you believe He will take “what others mean for harm and use it for good”?
Forgiveness is healing. Father God sent His Son to save the world through forgiveness. It is powerful! We need to admit faults, ask, give and receive forgiveness.
7. What do you believe is the responsibility of Christian students on campus in times like this?
Pray, love, hope and have faith. We won’t have peace without Jesus. He is peace. We won’t have truth without Jesus. He is truth. A law against racism will not remove racism. Hearts must transform.
We must pray for the security services and security on campus. We must have compassion for each other.
Sandra* — Student on UFS Campus
* Gateway News decided, in view of the tensions on campus, not to publish her real name.