KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Waves of remorse are spreading from that Wednesday night shooting in South Carolina.
People in the metro gathered in prayer, asking for comfort for the families of nine people killed during a bible study in Charleston, South Carolina at a predominantly black church gathering.
Prayers rose to the heavens from the Bethel African Methodist Church on Flora Street in east Kansas City, as about 100 local religious leaders led a spur-of-the-moment gathering. Thursday’s prayer vigil began at 12 p.m. local time — allowing it to coincide with a prayer meeting happening at the same hour in South Carolina.
“This doesn’t only affect black people,” Rev. Mike Patton, pastor of the United Missionary Baptist Church in Kansas City, said. “I think everyone has to be included in this atrocity, this most horrendous crime that has been committed.”
Police arrested 21-year old Dylann Roof, who is accused of gunning down nine people inside the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Published reports say he was arrested during a routine traffic stop in North Carolina.
Speakers at Thursday’s vigil on Flora Avenue called for justice and comfort for families who have lost their loved ones. One prayer leader suggested forgiveness for Roof, asking God to change his life for the better as he awaits charges in connection to the shootings, which are being considered as a hate crime.
Rabbi Doug Alpert, leader of Koi Ami Congregation in the metro, understands the pain his African-American friends are feeling. Jewish families in the Kansas City area recall April 2014, when three people were murdered outside sites associated with Judaism in Overland Park, Kan. Legal proceedings for 74-year old Frazier Glenn Cross, a former Ku Klux Klan leader, are underway in Johnson County, Kan.
“Issues of race and racism and hate because of the color of one’s skin seem to persist,” Rabbi Alpert said. “Until we can have honest conversations coupled with action, I’m afraid this is just going to continue.”
Alpert was one of many speakers at Thursday’s vigil who connected the South Carolina shootings with national gun violence trends, calling for changes in legislation. Pastor Robert Shaw, senior pastor at Bethel AME in Kansas City, told reporters this shooting may be the impotence for church leaders to better protect their congregations. He says his church has security cameras, as well as an officer who patrols the grounds in search of trouble.
Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver II (D-Missouri,) himself a former Kansas City church pastor, denounced the South Carolina shootings in a written statement, asking everyone to pray for peace and for ways to live peacefully.