Powerful Witness: Forgiveness in Charleston
CHARLESTON, S.C. If the Confederate flag is a symbol of hate, then the families of those killed in last week's Charleston church massacre are symbols of love.
The world is taking notice of how they've responded to the tragedy and to Dylann Storm Roof, the young man who will stand trial for killing all nine people -- and it's taking some by surprise.
Roof returns to a Charleston court this week in the next phase of his pending trial for killing nine people at a Bible study at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
At Roof's bond hearing, the daughter of 70-year-old Ethel Lance, an employee of the church who died in the shooting spree, had the following words for the 21-year-old gunman.
"You took something precious from me. I will never talk to her ever again. I will never be able to hold her again. But I forgive you," she said.
The mother of 26-year-old Tywanza Sanders, the youngest victim, was at the Bible study the night her son died.
"Every fiber in my body hurts and I will never be the same," Felicia Sanders told Roof. "Twaza Sanders is my son, but Twanza was my hero. As we said in Bible study, we enjoyed you. But may God have mercy on you."
Those same prayers for mercy can be found, with one person praying, "The world cannot understand why we are not crying, why we are not bitter," one person prayed.
Outside the church, thousands of people from around the country gathered to show support.
When the church reopened its doors on Father's Day, the new pastor made a point to note that the victims' families in this incident were all quick to forgive the shooter.
He said that if people were curious to know why those victims were so quick to forgive, they need to know their Father, their heavenly Father.
"We're going to be vigilant," Rev. Norvel Goff told the congregation. "The blood of the Mother Emanuel nine requires us to work until not only justice in this case but for those living in the margin of life, those less fortunate than ourselves, that we stay on the battlefield until there's no more fight to be fought."
And their prayer is that Roof would find the same peace that sustains them.
"I forgive you and my family forgives you," Anthony Thompson, whose wife Myra was killed in last week's massacre, said. "But we would like for you to take this opportunity to repent, confess. Give your life to the one who matters the most, Christ."