A group of politicians from Illinois have nominated the Emanuel AME Church of Charleston, South Carolina, where nine people were brutally gunned down during a Bible study last June, for a Nobel Peace Prize.
Thornton Township, Illinois, supervisor Frank Zuccarelli noted in a WBBM-TV report Monday that the nomination was inspired by the stunning decision of the church family to forgive the accused killer of the nine and avowed white supremacist Dylann Roof, just days after the attack.
"If anyone was responsible for promoting the peace, it was Mother Emanuel and the church leadership," said Zuccarelli, who traveled to Charleston with other politicians in the aftermath of the attack, according to The Post and Courier. "They demonstrated more love, peace and forgiveness than we have ever seen before. ... They are a great example for us all to follow."
The church was nominated by four U.S. congressmen from Illinois, a state senator, and U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. An Illinois state senator, two college professors and Clyburn also signed on, explained the Courier report.
Zuccarelli and politicians, including U.S. Reps. Bobby Rush and Robyn Kelly, submitted Emanuel's nomination Saturday to meet Tuesday's nomination deadline, according to goupstate.
"In some other city, an incident of such hatred and racist horror might have sparked an outpouring of anger, violence and divisiveness — driving crowds into the streets in clashes with each other and police. Instead, something unexpected happened — an outpouring of unity and forgiveness," explained the Nobel Peace Prize for Charleston petition on the Thornton Township website.
"The entire community of Charleston — church, ordinary citizens, political leaders, business leaders and law enforcement, came together to support those families who lost loved ones. They came together in a spirit of forgiveness, love and peace — not anger or hatred," it said.
Liz Alston, the Emanuel historian who contributed to the entry, told The Post and Courier that she and other members of the church were in awe of the nomination's significance. U.S. President Barack Obama received the Nobel Prize in 2009 during the first year of his presidency, and Al Gore, the former vice president, was honored for his advocacy on climate change.
"The mere fact that the church is in the same realm as Mahatma Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr. is one of the highest honors," Alston said. "That our church contributed to peace in this world is just phenomenal, and it's unequaled in Charleston history."
The Norwegian Nobel Committee, which has five members, usually receives more than 200 nominations that are kept secret for 50 years, says the Courier. Lawmakers of national governments and past winners can make nominations.
The first judging meeting for the nominations will be on Feb. 29.