We must choose peace, understanding over hate, violence

Published 10:14 pm Thursday, June 18, 2015

On Wednesday, police say 21-year-old Dylann Storm Roof entered one of the nation’s oldest black churches in Charleston, S.C., attending a Bible study class for nearly an hour before opening fire on the other people gathered there.

When he was done, nine men and women had died. Those people died during a prayer meeting in a church they attended at least once a week.

Things that were once unheard of are now becoming everyday horrors in today’s society. We used to be able to go to the movie theater and not worry if the stranger sitting next to us would pull out a gun. We used to be able to run a marathon on the weekend and not worry about bombs exploding. Before Wednesday, who among of us would have questioned their safety at a Bible study inside a historic church building?

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As details unfold in coming days, perhaps we will learn more about Roof’s apparent motivation or reasoning. For now, we can only watch in shock and sorrow, brought to our knees by the singular coldness of this crime.

More important, we can come together as a community and build up our community and our country in love. We must find ways to stand strong, #CharlestonStrong as social media would have us do on Thursday. And we must find ways to combat the senseless violence with compassion and understanding.

Pike County is an incredible community and a great place to live and raise a family. We feel safe here, and for that we are thankful. But we suspect those men and women at the Bible study in Charleston, S.C., felt safe as well. None of us – here in Pike County or in Charleston, S.C. or in a Denver, Colorado, theater – can foresee such random, cruel acts of violence. Because hate crimes are simply that – hate – and it is a force that cannot be contained or controlled.

But all of us can work to counteract that hate. To build community and understanding. To learn to respect our fellow man, regardless of the color of his skin. To value our differences and the common threads of humanity and faith that we all share.

And, perhaps most of all, we can pray – for Charleston for the families who lost loved ones Wednesday night and for those among us who choose hate over peace.