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Marking the anniversary of the Charleston church shooting with words and action

Posted June 15

The shooting in Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, took place on June 17, 2015. (Deseret Photo)

Nine men and women died in a Charleston church nearly a year ago, after a gunman opened fire during a Bible study on June 17.

This week, a federal judge set a November trial date in the District Court for South Carolina for the man accused of doing the shooting, Dylann Roof, who faces a possible death penalty from charges brought by both federal and state prosecutors.

The victims' families have supported prosecutors' pursuit to bring the case to trial, but a lawyer for several of the families noted that the trial will put a cloud over the holidays, The New York Times reported.

“Three weeks for jury selection puts them on Thanksgiving eve,” Andy Savage told the Times. “A couple of weeks of trial puts them on Christmas Eve, so it’s a tough time of year. I don’t think they really recognized what that’s going to be like.”

The families' ongoing struggle to come to terms with last year's shooting at Emanuel AME Church has resulted in a national discussion of how faith communities should respond to violence.

"To the families of the fallen, the nation shares in your grief," said President Obama in his remarks at last year's funeral of the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who was one of the victims. "Our pain cuts that much deeper because it happened in a church. The church always has been the center of African-American life, a place to call our own in a too often hostile world."

To mark the first anniversary of the Charleston church shooting, many media outlets have met with family members and other community members.

"The Emanuel Nine, as the slaying victims have come to be known, saw their faith as the starting point for a better city and country. Many people in Charleston still claim that faith. They hold out hope," wrote Lauren Markoe for the Religious News Service.

"It has now opened the dialogue for larger well-meaning, thinking people to see that, wait, there are individuals who really systematically have a problem with black people by virtue of the fact that they're black," said the Rev. Kylon Middleton, pastor of Mount Zion AME Church in Charleston, to NPR.

"But while the trauma is not over, neither is the grace. Any forgiveness worth the name is a long obedience in the same direction. To extend forgiveness aloud is less to describe a finished reality than to commit a personal journey — whether or not the offender ever joins you. And this is what many of the survivors of Charleston are extending, day after day, as they determine to forgive and to keep forgiving," wrote Bob Smietana for Christianity Today.

Email: kdallas@deseretnews.com Twitter: @kelsey_dallas

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