Friday 2 December 2016

Worshippers back at black church week after nine people shot dead in massacre

Published 25/06/2015 | 07:56

People stand outside during a vigil outside Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, June 20, 2015. Reuters/Carlo Allegri
People stand outside during a vigil outside Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, June 20, 2015. Reuters/Carlo Allegri

Worshippers packed a church for Bible study a week after nine people were shot dead in a massacre that shocked the US.

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They returned to Charleston's Emanuel African Methodist Church hours after one of the victims, state senator and pastor Clementa Pinckney was carried into the Statehouse where he served for nearly 20 years, to rest in honour in the South Carolina Rotunda.

His African-American congregation the returned to the scene of the killings, to show their faith and restore their sanctuary.

The shooting is creating waves of soul-searching that are reverberating far beyond the historic black church and the state Capitol where Mr Pinckney's widow and two young daughters met his horse-drawn carriage.

In state after state, the Confederate symbols embraced by the shooting suspect have suddenly come under official disrepute.

Governor Nikki Haley started the groundswell on Monday by calling on South Carolina politicians to debate taking down the Confederate battle flag flying in front of the Statehouse.

But Alabama's governor was able to act much more swiftly, issuing an executive order that brought down four secessionist flags yesterday.

In Montgomery, where the Confederacy was formed 154 years ago and where Jefferson Davis was elected president, Governor Robert Bentley, a conservative Republican, compared the banner to the universally shunned symbols of Nazi Germany, a stunning reversal in a region where the flag has played a huge cultural role.

The Confederate battle flag in particular "is offensive to some people because unfortunately, it's like the swastika; some people have adopted that as part of their hate-filled groups," Mr Bentley explained.

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