A group of political leaders visited Emanuel AME church Sunday as part of a three-day South Carolina Faith and Politics Pilgrimage to detail history and race relations tour in South Carolina.
The politicians have been in South Carolina since Friday and have visited Columbia, Orangeburg, and Charleston.
The bipartisan members of Congress traveled to the Palmetto State to get a deeper understanding about how race and reconciliation have played roles in the past, and recently with the shooting at Emanuel AME.
After the June 17 slayings – in which the suspect is a white man who had expressed support for white supremacy and the Confederate flag – relatives of the nine people killed expressed forgiveness for Dylann Roof, with some saying they would pray for him. Gov. Nikki Haley has frequently expressed pride at how the state didn’t devolve into riots, like other places have experienced after shootings in the past two years, but instead came together in peace and support.
“Emanuel 9 gave their blood, and maybe just maybe, and I believe it’s more than maybe that blood in this building in this holy place will help redeem the soul of America and maybe the world,” Lewis said.
The topic of forgiveness is one Rep. John Lewis knows well.
As a civil rights activist in the 1960s, Lewis was beaten by members of the KKK. Nearly 50 years later, one of those KKK members met with Lewis in his Congressional office and asked for forgiveness.
It’s a story Lewis has recounted many times, but warned the other members of Congress who joined him on the pilgrimage that combatting violent racism will take more than words.
“We’re not there yet. We have a role to play and we must play it,” he said.
Rep. Jim Clyburn, another civil rights pioneer in the 1960s, knows the important role the Emanuel AME church has played.
“Martin Luther King, Jr. was in Charleston on July 31st the year before he was assassinated and we had his service the night after his assassination in April 1968 in this church,” Clyburn said.
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SOURCE: ABC4 News – Lindsey Maloney