- Associated Press - Saturday, June 20, 2015

ATLANTA (AP) - Hundreds gathered Saturday at a church in Atlanta in one of a number of vigils and meetings held around the state to honor the victims of a shooting at a black church in South Carolina.

Police have said 21-year-old Dylann Storm Roof joined a prayer meeting Wednesday evening in Charleston, South Carolina, and then opened fire, killing nine people.

Priests, pastors, rabbis and imams sat side-by side at the multi-faith gathering Saturday at Peachtree Christian Church, a historically white church in the heart of Atlanta. In addition to honoring the victims in Charleston, they also called for healing and reconciliation. Earlier in the week, a service was held at historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s spiritual home.

The gathering in Atlanta was one of many services, vigils and meetings held around Georgia and around the country as people struggle to deal with the shooting at Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

“We are left grasping for the right words. Accurate words. Terrorism. Murder. Racism. But a word’s vocation is often times not enough to describe reality,” Peachtree Christian Senior Minister Jarrod Longbons said, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “So I’m exploring other words at the moment.”

The gathering at Peachtree Christian was by the Rev. Markel Hutchins, a civil rights leader. He urged leaders of different racial and ethnic groups to come together to call for racial unity.

“We’ve come to let the world know that this is not a black problem. This is not a white problem. What happened in Charleston, South Carolina is an American problem,” he said. “And it’s going to require an American response.”

Savannah Mayor Edna Jackson said Friday at a vigil Saint Philip African Methodist Episcopal Church in that city that people must join together to fight racism, according to the Savannah Morning News.

“We, Savannah, must come together and we must continue to carry the message that we will not tolerate racism,” she said, later adding, “We have to say to our sisters and brothers in Charleston: We’re going to be there for you. We’re going to be praying for you.”

Edward DuBose, a national board member of the NAACP, said during a vigil organized by the group in Columbus that the organization is responding to the shocking killing with love.

“How can a person go into a church Bible study and sit with (them) an hour and then kill the people?” he asked, according to the Ledger-Enquirer. “Well, we’re familiar with that. Judas sat with Jesus and he was a killer. And how did Jesus handle that? Jesus said as they cast lots, as he laid on that cross, ‘Forgive them, Lord, for they know not what they do.’”

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