Clergy Pray for Peace and Healing for Families of Charleston Shooting Victims

Blame murders on twin evils, hate and violence

By Chinta Strausberg

Having known all of the Charleston, S.C., victims especially the pastor, Rev. Dr. Albert Tyson, III, pastor of the St. Stephens A.M.E Church, Thursday held a prayer vigil at the Greater Institutional A.M.E. Church, 7800 So. Indiana, headed by Rev. Dr. Walter Johnson, to pray for peace and healing for the families of the slain members of Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston and the healing of that town.

Joining Tyson and Johnson were Rev. Paul Jakes, New Tabernacle of Faith MBC, Thurston, Rev. Myron McCoy, First United Methodist,  Rev. Dr. Walter Turner, president of the Baptist Ministers Conference of Chicago and Vicinity, Rev. James Moody, Quinn Chapel A.M.E., Rev. Dr. Stephen Thurston, New Covenant MBC, Rev. Dr. Marshall Hatch, New Mt. Pilgrim MBC, Pastor Ira Acree, Greater St. John Bible Church, Rev. Dr. Janette Wilson, Rainbow PUSH, Bishop Jerry Jones, Apostolic Assembly of the Lord Jesus Christ, Rev. Dr. Cecelia Bryant from the Episcopal Supervisor of the Fourth Episcopal District of the A.M.E. Church and wife of Bishop John R. Bryant, who heads the A.M.E. churches, who was in Charleston. There were other clergy there from other faiths as well.

His heart heavy, Tyson called several of his peers to participate in a prayer vigil for his friends who were killed by 21-year old Dylann Roof who sat inside of the historic Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston for nearly an hour before shooting his victims.

According to Charleston County Coroner Rae Wooten, those victims are: Myra Thompson, 59, Rev. Sharonda Singleton, 45,  Cynthia Hurd, 54, Susie Jackson, 87, Ethel Lance, 70, Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, 49, Rev. and State Senator Clementa Pinckney, 41, Tywanza Sanders, 26, and Rev. Daniel Simmons, Sr., 74.

Dr. Tyson, who knew the slain church members, said he especially knew Rev. Pinckney who was also a state senator. “I worked with Rev. Pinckney on committees and attended his annual conferences,” said Tyson. “

When asked what kind of man was Pinckney, Tyson said, “He was a great guy who rose rapidly. He entered the ministry early sometimes in his 30’s. He became pastor of the largest church that we (A.M.E.) have in our denomination in S.C. He has been a state representative and state senator.” Tyson said his career was based on his career and his personality. “He was a nice guy.”

Tyson also knew Rev. Simmons. “We developed a fellowship, a kinship and attended the same meetings.

Asked about the shooter who wore a jacket with an apartheid flag, Tyson said that is what is troubling about this whole incident. “What bothers me is that this is a 21-year-od person who did this. I can understand somebody 66-years old doing this, but that means he (Roof) has been taught some very evil things and as a result he made a decision to do this dastardly deed.

“He’s 21-years-old,” said Tyson. “What does he know about life’s living and the world? What could possibly have been taken from him at 21 that would cause him to be filled with this kind of hatred. It means some folks responsible with his upbringing had something to do what ever had been instilled in him or he’s an absolute nut.”

When asked to react to what CNN is reporting that Roof said before shooting his victims, “You raped our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go,” Dr. Tyson said, “He’s got that way backwards. He’s 21. He hasn’t seen anything…hasn’t done anything…. That is why you have to be in charge of educating your children. Who ever was responsible for educating him filled his head with that kind of foolishness.”

Tyson said, “Our bishop, John Bryant, who is he senior bishop of the A.M.E. church, flew down to Charleston. He will be returning this evening and will give us some direction as to what he and other bishops talked about to let us know how we can be helpful to the Emanuel congregation…. We are waiting to hear from our bishop to provide some healing and restoration.”

Dr. Johnson said, ‘we decry the random senseless act of  (gun) violence…. Many of us have already been on the forefront including Father Michael Pfleger trying to address this random gun violence that permeating and plaguing America as a whole….” Johnson said that could have happened to any one of his peers.

Johnson said the shooter ‘s ranting amounted to a “vitriolic, hateful, fear-mongering statements…but the sadder part of this is that his father bought him a gun for a 21st birthday as a present…. Evidently, he grew up in a household that not only embraced guns and violence but also embrace some sense of racial hatred towards black….” He said racism “is a learned behavior….”

Pastor Turner, who prayed at the press conference, later said, “We needed to pray as one body in Christ for peace and for God to bring about a healing of our nation.”

When contacted and in solidarity with the clergy, Father Pfleger called the shooting a “tragedy.” He posted this message on his Facebook page: “That tragedy in Charleston, SC reminds us of that our country suffers still from the reality of racism, hate, violence, easy access to guns and the refusal to deal with mental illness

“We mourn with our brothers and sisters in South Carolina. .I am glad that they captured the man who executed this evil act, but now I pray as Dr. King would say that we have the courage to arrest the evils of hate, racism, violence and our love affair of guns that produces such individuals,” said Pfleger.

Explaining, Father Pfleger added, “For the guilt belongs not only to the man who pulled the trigger but also to the culture of a society that produced the man.”

“Non-violence is a choice, and unfortunately,” he said violence has become a way of life. “Dr. King said non-violence is a way of life. However, Pfleger said, “We have chosen as a country violence over non-violence from our government down to our neighborhoods.”

Pfleger said until that scenario changes, “we will continue to see the effects of violence destroy us. What is unique about Charleston shooting is that you had the marriage of two of our greatest sins, hate and violence, two issues we have lacked the courage to face and address….

“Until we value non-violence, we will make the choice for violence as a way of life from the government down to the street.”

Rev. Jakes who also led a prayer, told this reporter, “It’s very unfortunate and ashamed that this young man received a gun for his 21st birthday and that he used it on people praying to God. It is appalling, very hurtful, and it has made many of us Christians especially in the African ‘American community very concerned. It is ashamed that racism has become an issue. It is quite clear that this young man read extremist magazines and that may have poisoned his mind.”

“I am hoping that America will wake up to these gun shops that are causing a lot of problems especially in inner city communities,” said Jakes

Later Thursday evening, Rev. Moody held his own prayer vigil from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. to allow the community to pray for the victims.  Moody said he is glad that the shooter was quickly arrested and that calm is prevailing in Charleston.

Chinta Strausberg is a Journalist of more than 33-years, a former political reporter and a current PCC Network talk show host. You can e-mail Strausberg at: