We Are Charleston

We Are Charleston

On June 17, 2015, a young white man walked into a Bible study at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., and sat quietly until the benediction, when he shouted racist statements and opened fire. The suspect, Dylann Roof, was arrested the next day. Killed were Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Myra Thompson, Tywanza Sanders, Ethel Lee Lance, Cynthia Graham Hurd, Rev. Daniel L. Simmons Sr., Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, and Susie Jackson. After the killings, some family members expressed their forgiveness.

There are cynics who assume these extraordinary expressions of forgiveness were only a trip of the tongue when these family members were put on the spot—but if that’s true they would have recanted their statements or qualified them somehow. Each said something distinctly different at the bond hearing, and all the complexities and contradictions that weave their anger and grief into the notion of forgiveness must be considered. This forgiveness is not easy; it is quite the opposite.

But not every family had a representative at the bond hearing, and not all the family members feel the same way about forgiveness. Forgiveness itself is as complex as any human action. These extraordinary expressions of forgiveness do not suggest acceptance, nor do they imply forgive and forget.

Order We Are Charleston: Tragedy and Triumph at Mother Emanuel here.
the Web Editors 06-01-2016

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The Department of Justice will not pursue charges against the Minneapolis police officers who shot and killed Jamar Clark, U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger announced at a press conference June 1.

the Web Editors 03-28-2016

Screenshot via CBS News

The U.S. Capitol and the White House were on lockdown the afternoon of March 28 when someone opened fire near the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center, according to DCist.

One Capitol police officer was shot, but not seriously injured, and the shooter was taken into custody.

Frederic Lemieux 03-23-2016

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The actions of the shooters like those in San BernardinoParis, and very probably Brussels are difficult for most people to understand. But the work of scholars specializing in extremism can help us begin to unravel how people become radicalized to embrace political violence.

Security experts Alex Wilner and Claire-Jehanne Dubouloz define radicalization as a process during which an individual or group adopts increasingly extreme political, social, or religious ideals and aspirations. The process involves rejecting or undermining the status quo or contemporary ideas and expressions of freedom of choice.

Newly radicalized people don’t just agree with the mission and the message of the group they are joining — they embrace the idea of using violence to induce change.

the Web Editors 02-26-2016

A man in Mason County, Wash. killed his wife and children and proceeded to call 911, reports KING-TV.

The shooter then killed himself, according to the Mason County sheriff.

Ryan Hammill 02-26-2016

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Mass shootings are always and everywhere perverse and twisted events. But the Kansas shooting Feb. 25 that left three victims plus the gunman dead and 16 others injured possessed a few additional layers of perversity.

For one, when I tuned into the GOP presidential debate shortly after hearing news of the shooting, I expected CNN’s debate team to make mention of this newest spasm of random and brutal violence, and maybe even ask the candidates to address the issue. That was, unfortunately, not the case.

Ruth Nasrullah 12-09-2015

Image via REUTERS / Jonathan Alcorn / RNS

After the San Bernardino massacre, I, like other Muslims, worried about my safety.

I wondered what would happen if I went outside, given that I’m easily identifiable in my hijab. I wondered what that day, or the next or the day after that, would be like for me.

And that, I have decided, is ridiculous. I was not a victim that day.

Image via REUTERS / Sandy Huffaker / RNS

The murderous attacks in San Bernardino, Calif., are too fresh to address at any length.

The brutality and horror of the killings of the innocent and the bloody shootout, the indescribable grief of the families, and the sheer shock of such an incident occurring in an otherwise quiet community demand prayer, reflection, and comfort more than quick and inevitably inadequate pontification.

Sadly, these shootings are not unique. Too often, we have experienced the agony of slaughter in churches, homes, theaters, schools, and other venues of what has been the quiet commonplace.

Yet there is a striking facet of these tragedies that shines brightly amid their grim darkness: The witness of Christians who, in the face of evil, have displayed the love of their savior and the forgiveness he alone can bring.

the Web Editors 12-02-2015
Twitter / ABC

Police in San Bernardino search for the shooter. Photo via Twitter / ABC

San Bernardino Fire Department reports that local emergency units are responding to reports of a 20 victim shooting incident in south San Bernardino, Calif. The status of the victims is unclear.

The San Bernardino Police Department reports the shooter is still active, and that they have identified 1-3 suspects.

Image via REUTERS / Pool / RNS

For the past five years, Catholic priest Bill Carmody led a weekly Mass in the parking lot of the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood facility where a gunman killed three people Nov. 27.

In fact, Carmody had been in the parking lot with a handful of protesters that very morning, and he learned about the shooting after he’d left, when people texted him to make sure he was not hurt.

“I am absolutely heartbroken about this,” he said on Nov. 30.

“I’m against all violence, and whether you’re in the womb or outside the womb, killing’s wrong.”

the Web Editors 07-30-2015
Brad Sauter /

Photo via Brad Sauter /

The officer indicted for the murder of Samuel DuBose just blocks from the University of Cincinnati campus pleaded not guilty, NBC News reports. Outrage over the shooting death of DuBose, father of 10, during a traffic stop on July 19 has been widespread since video footage surfaced Wednesday, with calls for a murder conviction for officer Ray Tensing. 

the Web Editors 07-24-2015

A gunman opened fire in a Lafayette, La., movie theater Thursday evening during a showing of Trainwreck, killing two and injuring nine, before turning the gun on himself, according to multiple news reports. Police say they know the identity of the shooter — described as a white, 58-year-old male — but are not yet releasing his name. 

the Web Editors 07-16-2015
Image via  Leonard Zhukovsky/Shutterstock

Image via  /Shutterstock

Four Marines were killed and one police officer wounded at a Naval Reserve center in Chattanooga, Tenn., on July 16, CNN reports.

The shooting occured at two sites — the first a military recruiting center — and lasted less than 30 minutes. According to CNN:

Investigators "have not determined whether it was an act of terrorism or whether it was a criminal act," Ed Reinhold, FBI special agent in charge, told reporters. "We are looking at every possible avenue, whether it was terrorism -- whether it was domestic, international -- or whether it was a simple, criminal act."

U.S. Attorney Bill Killian earlier told reporters that authorities were treating the shooting as an "act of domestic terrorism."

The suspected gunman is also dead. Read the full story here.

the Web Editors 06-18-2015
Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C. Photo by Spencer Means /

Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C. Photo by Spencer Means /

From the president's statement: Mother Emanuel is, in fact, more than a church. This is a place of worship that was founded by African Americans seeking liberty. This is a church that was burned to the ground because its worshipers worked to end slavery. When there were laws banning all-black church gatherings, they conducted services in secret. When there was a nonviolent movement to bring our country closer in line with our highest ideals, some of our brightest leaders spoke and led marches from this church’s steps. This is a sacred place in the history of Charleston and in the history of America.

Photo via Mike Stone / Reuters / RNS

Political blogger Pamela Geller. Photo via Mike Stone / Reuters / RNS

Pamela Geller is good at getting attention.

She’s a celebrity blogger and fiery activist who founded the American Freedom Defense Initiative, which describes itself as a human rights organization that defends freedom of speech by speaking out against global jihad and Islamic supremacists. She runs a sister organization called Stop Islamization of America.

The groups are known for controversial activism against Islam.

the Web Editors 03-12-2015
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Police tape in Ferguson, Mo. R. Photo via Gino Santa Maria /

Early Thursday morning, just hours after the resignation of Ferguson police Chief Thomas Jackson, two officers were shot as they stood guard amidst protests outside the police department in Ferguson, Mo. One officer, a 41-year old from the St. Louis County Police Department, was struck in the shoulder. The other, a 32-year old from nearby Webster Groves Police Department, was hit in the face. Both officers were reported to be in serious, but non-life threatening condition.

As local authorities search for the unidentified shooters, protesters and police have begun to speculate about causes and responsibility.

QR Blog Editor 02-11-2015

Craig Stephen Hicks, a 46-year-old white male, has been charged with three counts of first degree murder, according to a Chapel Hill Police Release. After shooting three students in the head early Tuesday evening, Hicks turned himself in at a local police department in Pittsboro. The victims included a married couple – Deah Barakat, 23, and Yusor Mohammad, 21 – and their sister, Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19.

All three were currently attending or planning to attend schools in Chapel Hill. Although reports of previous of a conflict between the shooter and the victims are not confirmed, many have speculated religious bias played a significant role in the crime. 

the Web Editors 11-24-2014
Joshua Lott/Getty Images

Demonstrators protest the shooting death of Michael Brown Nov. 23, in St. Louis, Mo. Joshua Lott/Getty Images

A grand jury has found that no probable cause exists to indict Darren Wilson, the Ferguson, Mo., police officer who shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown, on Aug. 9, said St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert P. McCulloch on Monday evening.

McCulloch said the grand jury was instructed on the law and presented on five possible indictments. He emphasized that the jurors "are the only people who have heard and examined every witness and every piece of evidence."

Protests throughout the St. Louis metro area — as well as nearly 100 cities across the country — are planned in response to the decision. Last week, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon declared a preemptive state of emergency and activated the National Guard to respond to “any period of unrest that might occur following the grand jury’s decision concerning the investigation into the death of Michael Brown.” Rev. Traci Blackmon, a clergy leader in the St. Louis area, recently told Sojourners that while the city and county police departments have amassed weapons and riot gear to react to the protests, local community leaders and faith groups have been stocking up on bandages and first-aid materials. 

Earlier in the day Brown’s family asked for 4.5 minutes of silence this evening before protests begin — a statement on the 4.5 hours Michael Brown’s body was left in a Ferguson street following the shooting.

The Justice Department is conducting its own federal investigation, however recent reports have indicated that it is not likely to result in civil rights charges against Wilson. 

Stay tuned to Sojourners for continued updates and analysis. 

Adam Ericksen 10-29-2014
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“Sin is lurking at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.” YuryZap /

Last week’s school shooting in Marysville, Wash., has us all asking the question again: Why did this happen?

Snohomish County Sheriff Ty Trenary gave voice to the despair many are feeling as we search for answers. “The question everybody wants is ‘Why?’ I don’t know that the ‘why’ is something we can provide.”

Why did Jaylen Fryberg text his friends and family members to join him for lunch only to shoot them and then shoot himself? Whenever these tragedies occur we are tempted to blame the shooter by making him into a monster. We label the shooter “mentally ill,” claim that he was isolated from his peers, or was a generally troubled youth.

The answer to the question “Why?” has usually been to blame the shooter. We make the shooter into a monster because it allows us to make sense of senseless violence. Why did this tragedy happen? Because he was evil.

But Fryberg’s case won’t allow such easy answers. By all accounts, he was a popular and happy young man, seemingly incapable of causing such harm.

This horrific shooting is so scary because no one saw it coming. If a popular kid like could commit such a heinous act, anyone could do the same. Fryberg’s case deprives us of the easy out of blaming another. The only thing left is to face our own violence.

Photo by Patricia McDougall Photos

The Rev. Barbara Williams-Skinner. Photo by Patricia McDougall Photos

As the Rev. Barbara Williams-Skinner collected signatures for a statement by leaders of African-American church groups about the Ferguson, Mo., police shooting of Michael Brown, she found more people wanted to join in.

The general secretary of the National Council of Churches wanted to add his name; an Asian-American evangelical leader, too.

What started out as a “Joint Statement of Heads of Historic African American Church Denominations” has become an interracial cry for justice.

“It’s touching hearts of people who have sons and who know that their sons would not be treated this way,” said Williams-Skinner, co-chair of the National African-American Clergy Network, on Thursday. “They know it’s wrong. They know it’s wrong before God. And they are responding on a human level.”