You don’t have to live in Chicago to know about the violence, gun violence and high murder rates concentrated in some of its most economically downtrodden neighborhoods. Sadly, it takes something like the violence in Orlando to move the Chicago stories off the front page of the newspapers.
A recent magazine article in the New York Times focused on Chicago’s murder rate, tracking the events on one weekend all too typical of most. It reported that one-third of the incidents involved arguments, drugs or alcohol, or petty grievances. One-third were gang related, tied to boasts or insults often magnified by social media. Two-thirds of the attacks were outdoors, and unintended targets became victims in many cases.
It wasn’t an easy read. Across the city pastors and community leaders try to comfort and intervene. Even they live on the borders of despair. The article catalogued possible causes for the violence but was short on solutions.
And I wondered where the Christian schools of Bright Promise Fund fit in the picture, because some of them exist in the neighborhoods of violence profiled in the article.
I do know this. If unemployment, absentee fathers and incarceration are part of the problem, these schools offer children a different picture and preparation. Responsibility, the value of community, loving your neighbor, learning to resolve conflicts as Christ would have us work at it, being educated with a sense of calling and a place in God’s world, having the knowledge and wisdom to be employed—these are all character building elements found in the classrooms and missions of these urban Christian schools.
I believe these schools offer concrete signs of hope. I pray that students and teachers will help turn the tide from violence toward peace. And I also pray that they may be safe in the arms of God when random violence prowls their neighborhood.
Some students come to school and simply soak up the safety of a loving, nurturing picture of the Kingdom of God. Maybe that’s part of what makes for excellence in education.
Daystar School, one of the Bright Promise Fund schools is indeed affected by the violence in Chicago. Our socioeconomically diverse student body comes from literally every Chicago zip code (and many suburbs), so bring with them the trauma of our city. Guns and blood and sadness are a part of our city, our lives, their drawings, and stories. So too, though, are hope and joy and grace and strength.
We feel strongly that creating a school where the rich are educated alongside the poor is important now and even more important later, as those young people grow up to be more tolerant, more justice-minded, and more shalom-seeking adults. God bless us, everyone!