BELLS will be rung by churches of all denominations in
Charleston, South Carolina, at 10 a.m. local time on Sunday (3 p.m.
BST) as an act of unity after the shooting in the city's Emanuel
African Methodist Episcopal Church on Wednesday, in which nine
people were killed.
"Charleston is often referred to as the 'holy city'; a place
where church steeples - not skyscrapers - dot the skyline," the
city's visitors' bureau said in a statement. "This Sunday, our
bells will ring loudly and proudly to proclaim our community's
"More than three centuries ago, Charleston was founded on the
principle of religious tolerance. As a result, we live, work, and
raise our families in a historically strong and welcoming
community. We now call upon our collective strength to renew
Charleston's unity and compassion."
The African Methodist Episcopal Church is the oldest Black-led
denomination in the United States. It was founded by a freed slave,
Richard Allen, in 1816, and will mark its bicentenary next
The man suspected of carrying out the shooting, Dylann Roof,
aged 21, reportedly sat through a Bible-study group at the church
for an hour before opening fire, killing nine people including a
janitor, a sports coach, and the church's pastor and a South
Carolina State Senator, the Revd Clementa Pinckney.
Joey Meek, a friend of the suspect, told ABC News that Roof
thought that black people were "bringing down" white people, and
wanted a return to segregation. Media reports describe him as a
white supremacist with a history of drug abuse and racism.
Roof was arrested by traffic police in Shelby, North Carolina,
on Thursday, and was flown back to Charleston. Handcuffed, and
chained at the ankles, Roof wore a bulletproof vest over striped
clothes as he was transported by police.
On Friday afternoon we was charged with nine counts of murder,
and a tenth charge of illegal possession of a firearm. Sources
close to the investigation have been quoted by US media as saying
that Roof has confessed to the killings. The Governor of South
Carolina, Nikki Haley, has called for the death penalty if Roof is
Chris Singleton, a teenager, lost his mother, Sharonda, a school
sports coach, in the shooting. Speaking after a memorial service in
the school's sports hall, he told BBC News that the family had
forgiven the killer.
"We already forgive him for what he's done, and there's nothing
but love from our side of the family," he said.
The Bishop of the Episcopal diocese of South Carolina, the Rt
Revd Charles G. vonRosenberg, said that the "unimaginable tragedy"
called for "prayer, response, and self-examination".
He said: "In our prayers, may we remember the victims, their
families, the community of faith that is Emanuel, the wider
communities of faith in the AME Church, and our society, so prone
"As paths of response, may we seek and develop avenues of racial
conversation and reconciliation; may we refuse to accept things as
they are in our world; and may we strive for the vision of peace
offered by Jesus himself.
"In terms of self-examination, may we not neglect our own
complicity in an environment of polarisation and suspicion, and may
we respond with sincere and profound confession to God, who loves
Other church leaders have also commented on the shooting.
"Arresting the shooter is the job of law enforcement. Arresting
hate is the work we are all called to do as disciples of Jesus
Christ," the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian
Church in the US, Heath Rada, said in a joint statement with other
"May God never give up on us, as we face our own racism and its
tragic impact on congregations, their communities, and our very
The Roman Catholic Bishop of Charleston, the Most Revd Robert E.
Guglielmone, said that he was "deeply saddened" by the
"The inside of any church is a sanctuary," he said. "When a
person enters, he or she has the right to worship, pray, and learn
in a safe and secure environment. For anyone to murder nine
individuals is upsetting; but to kill them inside of a church
during a Bible study class is devastating to any faith
"On behalf of the Catholic faithful in South Carolina, I offer
my deepest sympathies to the families of the victims, and to the
members of Emanuel AME Church. I pray that everyone affected by
this horror will feel the comforting presence of our Lord
surrounding them during this difficult time."