My mission in life is helping other people know that, regardless of the hate that was in that church, hate is not gonna win.
On June 17, 2015, Rev. Sharon Risher lost her mother and two cousins in the shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. She has since become a nationally known activist against gun violence. On April 16, her advocacy tour brought her to Notre Dame.
As part of Gun Violence Prevention Week on campus, Risher spoke in the LaFortune Ballroom about losing her mother and the path she has taken toward forgiving the shooter. At the end of her talk, she took questions from the audience, a diverse group that included a number of gun-violence survivors and the relatives of victims. A central theme of Risher’s remarks was to take forgiveness at one’s own pace. Risher allowed herself years to forgive her mother’s killer, even though her sister made televised statements of forgiveness within days of the attack.
Risher will release a book about her experience this summer. Until then, you can read more of her remarkable story in “To Forgive a Killer,” a collaboration between Rev. Risher and journalist Abby Pesta ’91 published in our Spring 2018 issue.
Sarah Cahalan is an associate editor of this magazine.