The burning of Black churches in America’s Southern states is being investigated as a racially motivated hate crime. Over the past few weeks, at least seven African-American churches have been burnt in the southern US. Arson has been implicated in at least three of the blazes, but, according to the BBC, there have been no links to any one group or groups.
The fires have come on the back of two events: the mass shooting in Charleston in South Carolina, in which many Christians lost their lives; and a backlash by white supremacists after stores such as Walmart banned sales of the Confederate flag — itself the subject of bitter controversy in many American states.
Despite the prevalence of such attacks against churches, some people have taken to Twitter to complain of the lack of news coverage. According to the BBC, some people in the same city as one of the churches involved, Knoxville, Tennessee, did not even know a church had been incinerated in their town until they logged onto Twitter.
Following the deadly shooting of nine churchgoers at a Bible study group in Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church (EAMEC), Charleston, relatives of some of the deceased have offered their forgiveness to the suspect gunman.
The BBC has reported that, as Dylann Roof, 21, appeared in court in Charleston to face nine murder charges, relatives of the victims spoke to him through live video broadcast to tell him he was forgiven. According to the report, Mr Roof showed no reaction.
Speaking publicly, a daughter of one victim, Ethel Lance, said, ‘You took something very precious from me. I will never talk to her ever again. I will never be able to hold her again, but I forgive you. And [may God] have mercy on your soul’.
Anthony Thompson, a relative of Myra Thompson, told Mr Roof to repent and to turn to Jesus Christ. He said, ‘I forgive you and my family forgives you’.
Police are treating the killings at the African-American church as a hate crime.