Campaigners seek Nobel nomination for Charleston AME church

A crowd gathers outside the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church after a prayer vigil nearby in Charleston, South Carolina, June 19, 2015.Reuters

A campaign has been mounted for the Charleston Church where nine black worshipers were killed by a racist to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for its peaceful response to the act of violence, according to Chicago Sun Times.

This summer a young white man walked into Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal and shot nine worshippers, including Democratic Senator Rev Clementa Pinckney.

On Wednesday it was announced that a campaign had been set in motion to have the church nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for its peaceful reaction to the hateful crime.

"They truly deserve the Nobel Peace Prize. They were the main reason for the response to this horrific crime being love and forgiveness. No one has done more to promote peace at a time when it would have been the most difficult," said Frank Zuccarelli, the township supervisor.

"We expected to see on the news that night, burnings and protests and clashes with the police, but we didn't see anything like that.

"We were all brought up to believe an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, so we assumed something terrible would happen. When we didn't see that we were very, very surprised and very moved."

The killing could have sparked riots, particularly in the current context in which many have been engaged with angry protests over the controversial shootings of young black men by white police officers. However, the response of the church, and the wider Charleston community, was of love and forgiveness.

The interim pastor at Emanuel AME spoke to Chicago Sun Times about the campaign yesterday:

"It is embraced by all of us who are here in Mother Emanuel, but not only Mother Emanuel, but this community called Charleston and this state called South Carolina.

"We came together with the understanding of forgiveness. This is embraced as an acknowledgment that we do better together. Our faith is stronger than fear, and love always overcomes hate," he said.

The power of nonviolence has been significant; within days of the mass shooting, Nikki Haley, South Carolina's governor took steps to retire the Confederate Flag, seen by many blacks as a racially divisive symbol, from the state Capitol grounds.

The group spearheading the campaign, including Illinois State Senator Donne Trotter, hope at least one million people will sign the online petition.