We mourn the senseless killing of nine worshipers at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, on Wednesday, and join in solidarity to condemn this hate crime that claimed the lives of our sisters and brothers at prayer. This is not only an assault on the martyrs of Mother Emanuel, but an attack on houses of worship everywhere. To our friends in Charleston we say: We stand with you, we mourn with you, and we will walk alongside you in the difficult days ahead.
We and all people of good will are compelled to name this tragedy for what it is: the conjoined sins of racism and violence. For too long, our African-American sisters and brothers have lived in the shadow of a reign of terror that has targeted churches, homes and businesses in the false notion of white supremacy. Such a visceral hatred for people of color has no place in our country, our homes or our hearts.
As a nation, we delude ourselves if we think that Wednesday’s attack is an isolated aberration. From 16th Street Baptist in Birmingham to the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin to the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City, sanctuaries of prayer have been the target of violence. Too often, the false idol of racial superiority has been the motivation; too often, easy access to guns has been seen as the solution, not a symptom of a more severe sickness.
This week, we will toll the mourning bell of the Cathedral for the lives lost in Charleston. On Friday at 7 p.m., we will gather in prayer at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church (1514 15th Street NW), the oldest African-American parish in the Diocese of Washington, to mourn the dead, to ask God’s healing on our land and to commit ourselves anew to justice and racial reconciliation.