The World Council of Churches has joined in global condemnation of the mass killing of nine people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina by a man believed to support white supremacy.
Charleston church shooting suspect Dylann Roof has been taken into custody in Shelby, North Carolina, law enforcement officers said, CNN reported June 18.
The lethal shooting raised the thorny issues of race and gun laws in the United States.
The victims were six females and three males. They included Rev. Clementa Pinckney, the church's 41-year-old pastor who was a Democratic Party member of the state Senate.
The gunman is said to have told the victims before the shooting, "You rape our women and you're taking over our country. And you have to go," CNN affiliate WIS quoted Sylvia Johnson, a cousin of the church's slain pastor saying.
The WCC general secretary Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit said "A pastor and members of the congregation were targeted with acts of violence, which seem to have been premeditated and motivated by racial hatred, while they gathered in prayer and the study of God's word."
He said, "We offer our prayers for healing to the wounded and traumatized, and solidarity and accompaniment to our sisters and brothers in the African Methodist Episcopal Church."
The 197-year-old church is one of the oldest African-American Episcopal churches in the southeastern United States. In the late 1820s after a slave revolt led by one of its founders it burned to the ground.
The National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA described the actions of the white gunman as a "senseless mass shooting in our nation."
The NCC said, "Every death as a result of gun violence personally affects the churches in this country, but these shootings are felt even more personally by members of the National Council of Churches.
"The African Met hodist Episcopal Church is a founding member denomination and has three representatives on the NCC governing board, including Rev. William Miller, pastor of St. John AME, just west of Charleston."
The World Methodist Council urged prayer and support for the victims' families and those members of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church "who have been so gravely affected by this crime motivated by hate."
The South Carolina church shooting on June 17 "once again confronted President Barack Obama with a moment of racial turmoil in a country that for all its progress has yet to completely shed the burden of hatred and division," the New York Times commented.
The suspected killer' black jacket is adorned the flag from apartheid-era South Africa and another from white-ruled Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) that modern-day white supremacists hav adopted as symbols, the Times reported.
"I don't need to be constrained about the emotions that tragedies like this raise. I've had to make statements like this too many times," said President Barack Obama.
"We don't have all the facts but we do know that once again innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting a gun."
The president said he and First Lady Michelle Obama personally knew Rev. Clementa Pinckney, one of the nine people killed in the church massacre, ABC News reported.