On June 17, 2015, a 21-year-old white man attended a weekly Bible study meeting being held at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The congregation is one of the oldest black churches in the United States and has long been an important place in the struggle for civil rights for black people.

The young man, Dylann Roof, sat quietly for a portion of the Bible study and then stood up, pulled out a pistol, and opened fire on the black people present. He shot nine persons, three men and six women, ranging in age from 28 to 87.One of the victims was a senator and the church’s pastor and many of the others were community leaders. Eight of the victims died immediately, the ninth one later on.

The shooting was clearly motivated by racial hatred and an ideology of white supremacism. Some people called it an act of terrorism.

Amazingly, the congregation responded to Roof with grace and forgiveness. At a court appearance only days after he was apprehended, relatives of the murdered individuals spoke to him via video link. One of them said, “I forgive you, my family forgives you. We would like you to take this opportunity to repent… Do that and you’ll be better off than you are right now.”

Based on Jeffrey Collins, “Families confront Dylann Roof at hearing with forgiveness," The Globe and Mail, 19 June 2015.

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