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Daily News and Prayer is inspired by The Christian Science Monitor, one of the most important (and most underappreciated) newspapers in the world. Posts are usually (but not always) responses to articles in the Monitor about events and trends that call for prayer.

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What might have been

The tone was remarkable. At the first court hearing back on June 19 of Dylann Roof, the admitted shooter of the nine members of the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, several families expressed forgiveness of the young man for taking the lives of their loved ones.

Not everyone has reacted similarly. A prominent African-American writer described in The New York Times why she could never forgive Roof. The sentiment is understandable and shared by many, especially given the glaring hatred that pours out of Roof’s writings, discovered after his arrest. But refusal to forgive represents a response that has not proved very helpful in the past in correcting problems. As other writers have observed (here’s one from The Atlantic and another from The New Republic), forgiveness can be much more powerful than retaliation, especially if given, not from an emotional desire simply to “move on,” but from a deep, Christian sense of love.

I can’t help but think of what happened almost 14 years ago and how the U.S., as a government and a nation, responded. Three passenger planes were flown deliberately into buildings in New York City and Arlington, Virginia on September 11, 2001 (another was apparently intended for a building in Washington but was diverted by the passengers and crashed into a field in Pennsylvania), killing thousands. The planes had been hijacked by Middle Eastern terrorists. And the response from the President to the media and the general public was outrage and clamor for revenge. The military launched attacks on Afghanistan, the suspected home of those who ordered the attacks. Thousands more lives were lost. Eventually the U.S. carried the campaign to Iraq, raising the numbers of dead into the hundreds of thousands. And still the war on terror goes on, with no end in sight.

One wonders how history might have changed if, instead of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the terrorists on September 11, 2001 had flown their planes into the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.

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