(Vatican Radio) South African Jesuits have released a statement regarding recent events at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Johannesburg which has been providing a space for dialogue between facilitators of an ongoing standoff between Wits University of Johannesburg and student leaders.
The Church, under the ministry of Jesuit Father Graham Pugin, had also been providing a place of refuge and emergency first aid for those fleeing violence during protests.
Father Pugin himself was injured by a rubber bullet during one such situation when he interposed himself between riot police and the open gate leading into the Church.
Protests have raged on South African campuses since October last year as students demand free university tuition for all in a nation still divided by inequality and racial divisions.
In recent weeks, “#FeesMustFall” protests have swept across most of South Africa’s 26 universities, with violent clashes between students and police at some campuses. Some universities have been forced to suspend classes, citing security concerns.
The Jesuit Institute in South Africa has released a statement condemning the disruption of talks at the Church and announcing the venue will no longer be made available.
Please find below the full statement:
The Society of Jesus in South Africa strongly condemns the disruption of the attempted dialogue and the chaos that ensued at Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Braamfontein, on Wednesday 19 October.
This dialogue, initiated by the Academic Staff Association of Witwatersrand University (ASAWU), which Holy Trinity agreed to host, was part of an ongoing attempt to find a peaceful solution to the current crisis at the University.
Holy Trinity has consistently attempted to create a space of neutrality and sanctuary in accordance with the long standing tradition of the Catholic Church. This safe and neutral space has been violated by those who declared God’s house to be exclusively theirs.
Since genuine attempts to dialogue and find a resolution to the crisis seem to have ended, Trinity is regrettably no longer available as a venue for meeting. Trinity serves as a place of prayer and worship for thousands of people, not just the University community, and must continue to do so.
We appeal, once again, to everyone to treat God’s house with respect.
We continue to pray that a speedy and peaceful resolution to this crisis is found.
Issued by Fr David Rowan SJ
Regional Superior of the Jesuits in South Africa
20 October 2016