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Over the past several days, we have been moved by the power and conviction of the protests sparked by George Floyd’s death on a Minneapolis street on May 25. We have been especially moved by the 8 minutes and 46 seconds of silence observed to feel the time it took for a police officer’s knee to squeeze the life from a Black man. With the protesters, we pause in silence to wrestle with the pain, outrage, and anguish of a nation plagued by racial inequity.
In the heavy silence, we hear our brothers and sisters begging us to walk in their shoes to understand the pain of being targeted. We grieve because our nation has failed to hear for far too long. We grieve because we fail to live up to the ideals set forth in our founding documents. We grieve for the pain and suffering heaped upon our brothers and sisters simply because of the color of their skin.
In this tumultuous time, we at Tent Schools International are grappling with the humble understanding that we are complicit in this deep, thorny problem built over centuries. As people of faith, we must not close our eyes to the pain. Rather, we must bear witness to the pain and tend to the wounded. Only when we do this, will we connect with one another in our shared humanity. And only when we connect sincerely with one another will racism end in America.
From our international work, we have a clear eye to the difficulty of the work ahead. Justice and equality are at the heart of our mission at Tent Schools International. Our predecessor organization was created in 1987 out of the unwavering faith that each and every one of us is endowed with the inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Our faith mission was borne out of the commitment to removing barriers for our brothers and sisters around the world. Our organization was founded to educate boys and girls in deeply under-resourced nations, beginning in India, where caste systems and gender bias would have left them in poverty in a society that viewed them as disposable.
Our work evolved over the years to continue the fight for educational access as we saw the years-long gaps in education for refugees and displaced people. Our two largest projects today involve delivering educational resources to Syrian refugees who have no other access to education and Iraqi Christian children who were driven from their ancestral homes amid political and sectarian strife.
Today, the most recent horrific example of racism in the United States motivates us more than ever to pursue our existing mission to show the unlimited love of God. We ask our community of supporters to join with us as we follow the words of the prophet Micah to seek justice, to extend mercy, and to exercise humility to see that we are part of the problem and the solution.
In the days and weeks ahead, our staff will wrestle with the best way to extend our commitment to educational access here at home. It takes commitment and diligence to shape a more just future. What will keep us going on the long road ahead? The same thing that has always spurred us to act: The smiles, voices, and laughter of children as they develop their God-given potential. They are our hope and inspiration. May we build a legacy worthy of their admiration.
Scott VanderKooy Emily Klooster
President Executive Director