My experience of unrest on campus — A UFS student

Christian students have been meeting regularly this week to pray on locations on the University of Free State (UFS) campus where worker and student protests have been accompanied by violence, vandalism and racial conflict.

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.

ufs prayer schedule
A daily campus prayer schedule providing details of the prayer campaign organised in response to campus unrest.

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.

ufs prayer battle
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12)
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.


  1. Only God,by His grace and trough His Spirit,can and will give a solution to this problem..We as His body, will have to humble ourselves, repent of our sins, that He may heal our land..

  2. Hugh G Wetmore

    Thanks God for “Sandra” and her heart-mates. Her attitude, as well as the unity in the many prayer-initiatives, will help deal with racism – across the party-political spectrum.

    A small correction – there CAN be racial peace without Jesus. I learned this when I spent some time in Singapore 1986. A Taoist-Hindu-Muslim-Christian nation. Led by Confucianist doctrines, the Prime Minister had partnered with the Communists to gain power and consciously fostered racial harmony in building one united nation from many racial groups, each with their own language and script. My research (as a Christian) showed that, without realising it, they were governing the nation according to the Principles God wants and blesses (Jeremiah 9:23,24.) God wants KINDNESS, JUSTICE AND RIGHTEOUSNESS in HUMILITY. Singapore’s Government ticked each of those boxes. (I interviewed the leader of the Opposition and asked: Is Prime Minister Lee humble? He replied “Oh no, not at all. But I would agree he is not arrogant” !!!)

    I returned to “Christian” South Africa and received the Nationalist Party Election propaganda, which BOLDLY listed three of its fundamental Policies from Jeremiah’s list of the things God does NOT want in a Government (v23) NATIONAL PRIDE, ECONOMY (RICHES) and MILITARY POWER (STRENGTH). No wonder non-Christian Singapore prospered, while ‘Christian’ South Africa went downhill.
    But of course, we MUST pray to Jesus for national prosperity. Trust Him to change our leaders’ hearts and minds. But humbly recognise that this will only happen when, by the Common Grace of God, the Government does what God wants, and avoids what He does not want. Whether Jesus is recognised or not.

  3. Hugh,thanks for your realistic comments that there “can be “peace” without Jesus.” But the issue us what peacr? It’s a manipulated peace without any roots in truth & thus not a true & lasting peace. We can only have the peace that passes all understanding through Christ. Don’t be fooled; any other peace is only attained by switching off the witness of the Holy Spirit & by quelling the God-given inner voice that we’re all born with.Her 29: 11-13. God says there,”if with all your heart you truly seek me,you SHALL SURELY FIND ME. If we silence the inner promptings of the Holy Spirit,we will gind domething alright! BUT IT WONT BE THE TRUE LIVING GOD! & therefore any peace gained in any other way will be fake peace,leading eventually to deception & spiritual death.

  4. Sorry,that should read Jeremiah 29:11-13.
    We all quote that passage but oftentimes miss this vital truth.

  5. Thanks, Wendy, I fully agree that humankind will only find true spiritual peace in Jesus Christ. Salvation is found in Christ alone. The peace I found in Singapore was not “salvation peace with God”. I visited a Taoist Temple where ‘blessings’ were purchased with temple currency issued by “The Bank of Hell”.

    But no-one can deny that there was/is an amazing social, inter-racial peace and harmony among disparate races. There was no visible racism in this majority non-Christian nation. But in South Africa, with its millions of Christians, visible racism is a major scourge. How does one explain that?

    • Hugh -How does one explain that? It’s un-surrendered hearts! Taking the grace freely given, but not giving the surrender required. Focus on me, not on Him.