Orlando Grief Counselor comments on horrific events at Emmanuel AME Church

Forgiveness over judgment prevails in Charleston, South Carolina

In the wake of the recent tragedy, 9 deaths and many families shattered, strength prevails. Emmanuel AME Church, the oldest church in the South, and once visited by Dr Martin Luther King in his efforts to bring peace and unity to this community, was hit by a 21 year old white male pretending to want a relationship with God and study the bible.

On Wednesday 6/17, Dylann Roof entered Emmanuel AME church and expressed interest in wanting to attend a bible study. Being welcomed into the group, he later, pulled out a gun and murdered 9 people, 6 women and 3 men. Deciding to spare one person, he allowed a woman to live so she could tell the world what happened.

Amongst the victims were the Reverend Clementa Pinckney who was the church pastor and State Senator. He recently drafted legislation to require police officers to be equipped with cameras on their uniforms after the death of Walter Scott. He was known as a peaceful and thoughtful man and his death along with the other victims, is being mourned by their families, community and this nation.

When events like this happen, questions are always asked like; did this man have ties to any terrorist or hate groups? Does he have mental health issues in his past and what would cause him to have a premeditated plan to go into a house of worship and murder innocent people?

According to CNN, the country has now learned that Dylann Roof’s intent was “to start a race war.” He also mentioned that he wanted to bring attention to himself like George Zimmerman received in the death of Trayvon Martin, the 17 year old Florida youth that was shot to death in 2012. Roof’s racist views were well documented, as he had a history of hatred towards black individuals and pronounced to the members of the bible study group that “he was there to shoot black people.” Wanting to make a statement, he chose to bring his hatred to a place that is considered sacred and protected from the evils of the world.

His actions have affected a community which has suffered from prejudice since before the civil war and it is a painful reminder that racism breeds terror and extreme suffering. The victims’ families are scarred and suffering from grief and the loss of their family members. The only thing that can help these families is the act of forgiveness, for some an unbearable act. It is too soon to really expect people to really forgive this horrendous act, however, with forgiveness comes freedom and the hope for healing.

Forgiveness is a decision, not a feeling, and is an ongoing process; some may say struggle. It is a natural tendency to want to inflict pain on those who have hurt us and take revenge, but that will not bring the victims back or help one heal. It does not mean that a person forgets, but the act of forgiveness allows them to move forward without being paralyzed by their anger, pain, and grief.

Forgiveness is also very unifying. It allows a person or community to share in the process of healing and building personal strength and connectedness. What hatred breeds is terror, what forgiveness breeds is freedom. Ultimately, the display of solidarity of this community is what will help them rise and stand strong against such acts of terror.

NOTE: Freely redistribute this resource, electronically or in print, provided you leave the authors, name, credentials, and contact information below intact and include a link to this article.

Author: Cathy Pinnock, M.S. a Registered Marriage and Family Therapy Intern at Total Life Counseling Center in Orlando.  Total Life Counseling Center specializes in Trauma and our experts can be reached at (407) 248-0030.

References

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/dylann-roof-obsessed-trayvon-martin-white-race-article-1.2263647

http://www.cnn.com/2015/06/18/us/gallery/charleston-church-shooting-reactions/index.html

http://www.faithit.com/the-shooter-from-the-charleston-massacre-has-a-facebook-page-and-it-just-got-its-first-comment/

Rujishin, R. (2003). Gifts from the Heart (pp. 83-90). Lanham, Maryland: Roman & Littlefield.