LOS ANGELES — Southland religious leaders expressed shock Thursday at the fatal shootings of nine people at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, saying now is a time for people of various faiths to come together to support each other and console the victims’ families and friends.
The Rev. J. Edgar Boyd of First AME Church and Rabbi Zoe Klein of Temple Isaiah, both in Los Angeles, issued a joint statement saying they “join with other peace-loving individuals across racial and religious lines in sharing words of comfort and solace to the families of Pastor Clementa Pinckney and the other eight women and men who were so senselessly gunned down .
“There is no earthly justification as to why this sinister and heinous act would be carried out, and in, of all places, a church during prayer time,” they said. “While the facts and other vital information about the incident are still being gathered and discovered, we encourage peace-loving people within and without institutions of faith to reach out to God and to each other, offering prayer and consolation in the wake of this senseless attack against life and liberty.”
Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck met with area religious leaders this morning at First AME Church to assure them that police have strong ties with area churches and are committed to keeping them safe.
“You know, with every tragedy comes an opportunity to make things better, and hopefully we can make this relationship even stronger,” Beck said.
Beck told the group that at the LAPD, “We believe in this church.”
“We have a long, long and storied history with First AME and I think we have come to be strong partners in making this a better community,” he said.
“And it’s not just the chief that knows that, it’s everybody that works in these divisions. These are men and women that want to make this a better community, that want to make this a stronger community, that want it to be faith-based, whichever faith that may be. And I think it’s important that that message be loud and clear.”
A prayer vigil will be held at 8 p.m. at First AME Church, 2270 S. Harvard Blvd. Another will be held at 7 p.m. at Bethany Baptist Church, 4115 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
The Rev. Mark Whitlock of Christ Our Redeemer AME Church in Irvine called the shooting “a holy tragedy.”
“This leaves a permanent memory of pain in the life of the AME church,” he said.
Whitlock said a prayer service is being planned in memory of the nine people who died in the shooting.
The Rev. J. Jon Bruno, diocesan bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles and president of the Los Angeles Council of Religious Leaders, called for people of faith to continue praying for the victims.
“We pray for our nation, and we insist on putting those prayers into action to achieve real legislative and social change that effectively addresses mental illness and adequately controls weapons of deadly force,” Bruno said.
“We pray fervently that it will not take another Sandy Hook, and other IslaVista, another Charleston to bring our government to action to increase public safety and ethical behavior.”
Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, joined with other civil rights leaders to call for increased awareness of hate crimes — which he said occur at a rate of one per day in Los Angeles County.
“The heinous racially motivated massacre at a Charleston church is yet another wake-up call that hate violence and crimes pose a grave threat to the nation and Los Angeles,” he said. “Given the continuing incidences of hate crimes in Los Angeles County, the call for a day of vigilance on hate violence by residents and public officials is an opportunity to raise public awareness of the danger of hate violence and … to toughen the prosecution of and penalties for hate violence.”