Senem Yumshuk prays every morning on the lawn in front of Holy Trinity Church. At the base of an oak, she prays for her children. At the base of an elm, she prays for children everywhere. She moves to another oak and prays for her mother. There are many trees. There are many prayers. Sitting on her heels with her back against each tree trunk, Senem feels the presence of Allah – the God of her Muslim faith.
Early in the morning, it is peaceful out on the lawn. Lines haven’t formed yet on 31st St., where hundreds will soon gather to receive food donations. There are just a few cars out.
Senem will return to Turkey next week, leaving her teenage sons and her mother who have lived in this neighborhood for 10 years. She will miss them. She will miss the trees, but there is always someplace to pray. Senem has been unable to get a green card, so she works in Turkey as a nurse eight months of the year and has extended visits here when she can. “This visit,” she said, “has been too crazy.”
When the neighborhood outside her mother’s window began to burn on May 26, the two Turkish women prayed together through the night. They held each other as they watched the news reports roll in. They wept for George Floyd. Senem said, “We believe that every son is our son, and every daughter is our daughter too. Why does it have to be so hard?”
The Turkish news media sent a crew to South Minneapolis to cover the riots. Senem said, “Even in my country, almost 6,000 miles away, they are saying the name of George Floyd. I believe he is very happy right now, because of all the good that will come from what has happened. We continue to cry for him, and to pray that people everywhere can learn to get along.”
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