Faith Amid Tragedy06/26/2015
Last Sunday, I was blessed to be part of a vigil for the victims of the shooting in South Carolina at AME Bethel Church in North Little Rock.
As I told those gathered Sunday night, I am humbled to be part of our community of faith, and I am proud of the state of Arkansas for joining hands together and remembering the tragedy in South Carolina.
At the vigil, I shared these words:
Our heart is broken over this loss of life.
Our heart is broken over the invasion of the sanctity of the church.
Our heart is broken over the savagery of racial bigotry and hatred.
Our heart is broken. But even as our hearts break, we recognize the extraordinary example set by those families who have suffered such loss in South Carolina.
That morning before the vigil, I watched “Meet the Press.” On the program was the family of the Reverend Daniel Simmons Sr., who was one of the AME church members killed on that horrific night. The family of Reverend Simmons did not express anger. They did not express hatred. They did not express the desire for revenge. They expressed faith, forgiveness, sadness, and a desire for healing.
The press asked the family about the political significance of the shootings.
Here’s how they responded: “We’re here to grieve over the loss of loved ones and pray for a time of healing in our nation.”
It’s been more than a week since the tragedy in South Carolina, and we are still grappling with it. This kind of news knocks the wind out of all of us, and we struggle to make sense of it.
But in observation of the tragedy in South Carolina, I’ll offer four thoughts:
First of all, the leaders and members of Emanuel AME Church showed America what true faith is about.
Second, we as a nation must confront and defeat racial bigotry and hatred.
Third, the community of faith, hope and tolerance can overcome the violence of a few.
And, finally, I observed something very important for us in Arkansas.
The community of Charleston has come together so impressively because there was some togetherness before the tragedy.
The trust in the community must be there before tragedy strikes. That’s my prayer — that we in Arkansas will develop an even greater sense of community that can survive tragedy. That we can be together before, after and always. That is my prayer for Arkansas.