Mother Emanuel AME Church to Honor Nine Victims With Discussion on Healing and Forgiveness on Sixth Anniversary of Mass Shooting

A vigil at Charleston’s AME Church. Brian Snyder/Reuters

Walter Bernard Jackson Jr.’s grandmother was a forgiving woman.

Susie Jackson was deeply involved at her church, Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. She was a trustee and an usher, and she sang in the choir. Jackson described his grandmother as someone who truly respected everyone.

At 87, she was one of nine people slain in June 2015, when a white supremacist opened fire on a Bible study group at the church.

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“Hate is an evil force that has hindered us as a country from doing a lot of things,” Jackson said. “My grandmother always believed we need to see past that and really dig deep into getting to know individuals.”

Six years later, as the church community continues to grieve, it is also grappling with the process of forgiveness.

The ​Emanuel Nine Commemoration Committee ​will hold events this week to remember those lost in the shooting. Thursday’s forum will include the families of the Emanuel Nine victims; Sarah Collins Rudolph, who survived the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963; and Rabbi Jeffrey Meyers, who survived the Tree of Life synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh in 2018. The discussion will be based on the ways reconciliation is connected to healing.

Jackson said forgiveness has been a challenge since his grandmother died, although he sees that difficulty as part of grieving. “It’s a process,” Jackson said. “I truly believe that you don’t necessarily have to put a timeline on individuals in terms of when or how long it should take for them.”

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SOURCE: NBC News, Bianca Brutus

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