JACKSONVILLE, NC (WNCT) – Members of St. Julia’s AME church in Jacksonville held a vigil following the Charleston church shooting.
Both churches are of the African Methodist Episcopal faith. A member of Jacksonville’s congregation was related to one of the 9 victims, 26-year-old Tywanza Sanders.
The family who lost their nephew traveled down to South Carolina.
Those gathered at Wednesday’s vigil heard messages of getting rid of hate and coming together as a community.
“Unified, one voice, love, divine purpose, people coming together with the same mission at heart, and that is what’s going to get us through to the other side,” said Million Heir-Williams, Vice President of Jacksonville-Onslow Chamber of Commerce.
“They do vow to not let evil win, they have extended forgiveness as many of the families of the victims have done so,” said Amy Ciceron, a pastor. “And I believe that we need to take a page from their book because God calls on us to forgive. He says if we don’t forgive he can’t forgive us and so rather than hating the one that did this crime, pray for him.”
Local law enforcement say they hope the community will stand together to defeat what divides them.
“I think it’s very important in Jacksonville and Onslow County for all of us to stand together as a community,” said Sheriff Hans Miller. “Stand together as one. And break down the barriers, break down the racial barriers, break down the, do away with the hatred. Let us accept each other, let us love each other as a community and let us stand together as a country.”
Jacksonville police will host a church safety seminar next Thursday to help keep the community as safe as possible.
That program is free and will be held on Thursday, July 9th from 9:00 to 11:00 AM at the Commerce Center, located at 1099 Gum Branch Road in Jacksonville.