When I look at #FeesMustFall movement, which is currently sweeping across higher education landscape in South African, I realise that as someone that identifies as Christian, I cannot sit back and do nothing.The thought that keeps coming to my mind is that one day my children are going to ask me “When the students were fighting for #FeesMustFall; Dad where were you?”And we want to be able to answer and say that ‘we showed up and we showed up on time’.
The great social activist – William Wilberforce said “You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.”
Whenever we find ourselves in situation like this; we hear people asking ‘where is God?’, but we know what they are really asking is “Where are the people of God?”I am calling Christians to push themselvesto be a part of the solution to the challenges at the universities. I have been observing the situation at the universities and I have attended some of the meetings at the University of Pretoria. I push myself to read, watch and understand painful parts of my history. I want to allow the rhythms of truth to flow naturally through my psyche, my spirit and my mind. I need that specific beat, tempo, swing to be natural in my cadence as I fight for justice in this present age. I need to keep liberation on my lips. I believe we must find a way to be part of the solution to the current challenges at the universities.Let us rise together out of the ashes. Let education and lament ground us in truth—so that our actions may be ones that heal, restore and invoke justice.
The need for prayer cannot be overestimated. We need to pray that an everlasting solution will be sought between all the engaged parties. We need to pray that during these times, as Christians we will rise up and shine the light of the gospel. My call is that we walk and engage in the following 6 paths of love:
- Mediation Role
The Christian has a wonderful opportunity to encourage love and peace by playing a mediation role between the students and the university management. I am aware that some Christians have been doing that at university of Pretoria and other universities. We need to be doing more in this area as we seek a permanent resolution to the current university challenges. We need to be aware that the mediation role it’s not easy as we can get tempted to take sides but it provides wonderful opportunities to shine the light of the gospel through promoting peace.
God is a peace-loving God, and a peacemaking God. The whole history of redemption, climaxing in the death and resurrection of Jesus, is God’s strategy to bring about a just and lasting peace between rebel people and himself, and then between people. Therefore, God’s children are that way, too. They have the character of their Father. What he loves they love. What he pursues they pursue. You can know his children by whether they are willing to make sacrifices for peace the way God did.
2. Preach peace and mediation from the pulpits
Many pastors either preach false rhetoric, give their own political views instead of giving the biblical view.Gather the issues together and meditate on them. Weigh them in the balances of the Bible.
Ultimately we want to communicate – even while engaging in students issues – that fees are not the main issue on this earth. Knowing the Creator is the main issue, as well as being reconciled with him and glorifying him in all that we believe and say and do. That’s what the church needs to constantly be calling people to.
This will better equip Christians (and the students) many of whom are part of the movement or at the very least, are affected by it.
The main issue is God and the gospel. God is the Creator, Owner, and Judge of every person on the planet. Every one of us stands before him guilty of sin, and the only way to be reconciled to him is through faith in Jesus, the crucified Saviour and risen King. All who trust in his love will experience everlasting life, while all who turn from his lordship will suffer everlasting death.
Everything changes in a world of #FeesMustFall when we fix our gaze on the holiness, love, goodness, truth, justice, authority, and mercy of God revealed in the gospel. When we focus on God as the main issue, what we often think of as separate social issues- #FeesMustFall become intimately connected to our understanding of who he is and what he has done, and is doing, and is calling us to do in the world.
3. Making our facilities available for students in need
There are some Churches around the universities that have been providing a space for students to use the internet on their premises without any charge. This provides a wonderful opportunity where we open our doors to the world and they can use our space with the hope that it will breach the gospel gap and real meaningful conversations. It will show the students that we care about them and that we are sympathetic to their problems, it’s a great opportunity to extend the love of Christ. We can consider offering free Wi-Fi on our premises or providing our facilities as conference rooms or boardrooms or study centres for students.
4. Engage the students
Use your student ministries to engage with the students, to better understand the situation and their perspective. Many are scared, confused or just going along with the masses and are in need of someone to help them make sense of the situation. Be that someone.
5. Engage the faculty and teaching staff
One of the ways that we are salt and light and act as peace agents in this broken world is to live out a faithful presence in whatever place we find ourselves in, including campuses. As followers of Jesus, we are called to a mission of engagement in, not withdrawal from, the campuses. To faithfully engage the world and campuses means we must be fully present within it.
6. Offer free counselling to students and staff- self-explanatory point
Counselling will assist in guiding the students and staff towards emotional and spiritual wholeness. Counselling can help the staff and students identify the issues they face and recommend a path of healing and recovery.
Lastly, we need to understand that we are dealing with very complex social issues, and there are no simple answers to them. We must resist the temptation to take sides or to spread ignorant political or personal views about the situation. Instead, we must always prayerfully consider how we can bring the message of the Gospel in a practical way in a situation and society like this. This is ultimately the challenge.
I believe that the growth of Christian engagement in universities is hugely exciting. But the growth of activism means that the Church stands at a key time. There are clear indications that the consent parties will seek to engage the Church more than ever in finding solutions to the university challenges. It means that many ministries and churches will find themselves standing at crossroads.
On the one hand the Church must avoid going down a route where the person of Jesus and the good news he brings is marginalised and eventually forgotten. We must learn the lessons from history and avoid sliding into a completely ‘socialised’ gospel message that loses it personal challenge.
But equally, we must not take the route of half-hearted activism. The growth I have spoken of and celebrated is only a beginning. Still far too many churches are simply dipping their toe in short term initiatives and fairly shallow forms of community engagement. So much more could be achieved if resources and energy were focused into authentic community mission.
Rather than take these two routes, we are called to walk a more challenging path. The good way, the ancient path is to be found in the consistent message of the Bible: in integrating a love for God with a love for neighbour. As Jesus makes clear in Matthew 22:34-40, this sums up the whole message of the Law and the Prophets.
As ever, our example and our guide is Jesus. It is in him that we see the ultimate example of integrated social activism and what it looks like ‘to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God’ (Micah 6:8). As someone wise said ‘Hold fast to Jesus and to everything else remain profoundly uncommitted’.
But of course, we know that the path Jesus took was also one of hardship, threats and costly sacrifice. Through the resurrection we have assurance that he will one day fully complete his work of restoring and renewing his creation. But until that day when he will renew all things and put the world to rights, Jesus says ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.’ (Luke 9:23-24).
When we stand at the crossroads Jesus calls us to choose the road that leads to the cross.
Edited by: Andy Mabaso