Hundreds of University of Pretoria students marched silently around their closed campus on Thursday morning, seeking divine intervention to racial tensions rocking the institution.
The students from different races, only had one large placard with #PrayerWalk written on it.
Leader of the group, Tobie Snyman, said their gathering was not even “a peaceful protest but a prayer gathering”.
“The whole idea is just to walk around our campus and pray. We want God’s promises to this country to be fulfilled. We want unity,” said Snyman.
“If we start having different posters, then we will have other guys saying this, others saying that. They might say things we don’t agree with.”
He said like the biblical “walls of Jericho”, the students’ fervent prayers will “shift the atmosphere”.
The group has been meeting after 6am from Monday and hope to continue until Sunday.
Numerous motorists hooted along Lynnwood Road as the students marched, some holding hands.
The students finally congregated at an open space adjacent to the university’s main entrance, where they broke into smaller groups and prayed.
Numerous security guards could be seen inside campus. A group of police officers on horseback also patrolled the area.
UP students and friends Martin Nel and Martin Mushomba said they believe their participation in the #PrayerWalk was a stance for unity and tolerance.
“There is a lot of turmoil in our campus currently. I feel that there is sharp polarisation because of the sharp divide between races. Supporting one side can only flare up the tensions. Not doing anything about it is also a standpoint on its own,” said Mushomba.
“What we are having here is part of a bigger problem in our country. Hatred is going to cause more hatred. It’s like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. When you hate, you are hurting yourself.”
Nel said the racial tensions had left the students “broken apart”.
“Now the love of Jesus Christ is going to unite us. We can’t figure out the way forward on our own.”
The silent protests come after clashes erupted between students affiliated to the EFF Student Command and AfriForum Youth.
The EFF Student Command has demanded the scrapping of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction at the university, while AfriForum Youth vowed to defend its culture and heritage and retain Afrikaans.
UP previously said a task team’s recommendations on language policy are to be submitted to faculties and student representative bodies for comment, after which they will go to the university council for consideration.
Details would be shared with staff and students during the course of the consultations that would be scheduled.