When white supremacist Dylann Roof entered The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Charleston, S.C. on June 17, 2015 and murdered nine black parishioners, the aftermath shocked the world. At Roof’s first bond hearing, family members of the victims forgave Roof. So stunned by their ability to forgive, then-President Obama attended the AME members’ funeral service and sang some impromptu lines from “Amazing Grace.”
Rev. Anthony B. Thompson was one of those family members, the husband of Myra Thompson, who was murdered by Roof. Rev. Thompson joined Bold TV to discuss his upcoming book, “Called to Forgive: The Charleston Church Shooting, a Victim’s Husband, and the Path to Healing and Peace.”
“I discovered that the forgiveness was for me,” said Rev. Thompson, who told Bold TV that after forgiving Roof, he felt all anger and hate immediately leave his body and never return. “Forgiveness is all about the victim. It’s not about the perpetrator.”
Rev. Thompson said he sent Roof a letter about his wife, Myra and told him what she was like. Thompson even offered to meet with Roof to give him spiritual advice.
“I have a peace now like no other,” Rev. Thompson said. “It releases you from everything that you’ve been harboring, any baggage you’ve had in the past. because a lot of our baggage from not being able to forgive.”
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Rev. Thompson said Roof should be held accountable for his crimes; in 2017, Roof was sentence to death and transferred to death row, where he currently resides at Terre Haute Federal Prison in Indiana.
“I have nothing against the law,” Rev. Thompson said. “Of course he has to be punished for what he’s done. That’s the law … But that punishment of his has nothing to do with me forgiving him. It’s two separate things.”
This New Year’s Day, as the world hits the reset button and makes resolutions to start over, Rev. Thompson’s words are incredible advice on how to heal and move on. Because he forgave Roof, Thompson said he is free from ceding Roof any control or power over his life.
“I never hated Dylann at all,” Rev. Thompson said. “My thoughts, and my heart and my mind was all my wife. All I could think about was her, you know, how did this happen? Did she die right away? I was full of thoughts of her, not Dylann. When I forgave Dylann, that was it. Because obviously that peace, I had that peace that passes all understanding. I know how it feels. It’s real. And that peace is still with me, and I will not give that back for nothing in the world. And the only way I can give that back is to harbor any hate or anger for her right now, which I don’t. and that way he’s not a part of my life anymore, he’s not a part of my children’s lives, and I can move forward.”
Carrie Sheffield is the founder of Bold. She is passionate about storytelling to empower and connect others. A founding POLITICO reporter, Carrie contributed on political economy at Forbes and wrote editorials for The Washington Times. After earning a master’s in public policy from Harvard University, she managed credit risk at Goldman Sachs and researched for Edward Conard, Bain Capital founding partner and American Enterprise Institute scholar. She earned a B.A. in communications at Brigham Young University and completed a Fulbright fellowship in Berlin.