This is a tribute to nine members of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Charleston Carolina in America and condolences to their families and to the entire AME Church.
First of all, here are the names of the martyrs who were brutally murdered inside the church in which they were worshipping God: Cynthia Hurd – 54 years, a librarian at Charleston County Public Library; Suzy Jackson – 87 year-old, she was looking forward to attending a large family reunion; Ethel Lee Lance – 70 years, had worked at the church for 30 years; Rev. De’Payne Middle-Doctor – 70 years, she sang in the church and was an ordained minister of the Gospel; Rev. Clementa Pinckey – 41 years old, a pastor and state senator; Tywanza Sanders – 26 years old, recently graduated at Allen University Columbia South Carolina; Rev. Daniel L. Summons – 74 years old, a pastor; Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton 45 years old – Language pathologist; and Myra Thompson-Singleton 45 years – a vicar at Holy Trinity College and is wife of Rev. Anthony Thompson.
The ministry of the AME Church has a rich history of service not only in America, but in many parts of the world. It has important branches in countries such as Azania (South Africa), Zambia and Zimbabwe. The AME Church was the first to have closer ties with Africa. The barbaric attack on this church is an attack on all Africans in Africa and in the Diaspora. This Church long stood against racism and defended true Biblical Christianity. The Pan African outlook of this Church must be deeply appreciated by millions of Africa’s people who desire to achieve authentic liberation. It is believed that it is some leaders of the African Methodist Episcopal Church who coined the phrase “Africa for Africans, Africans for humanity and humanity for God.” The AME Church has a long history of serving Africans both in America and the African Continent.
Before I give a brief painful history of this church in honour of African martyrs that fell in Charleston on 17th June 2015, let me remind that the young racist Dylan Roof is 21 years of age. His motive was to carry out a vile political programme against Africans all over the world. The jacket he wore and the gun with which he killed these African-American martyrs is revealed in the kind of flags on his jacket. These were flags of apartheid colonial South Africa and that of Southern Rhodesia. He could not have committed this crime without being heavily indoctrinated by someone or a group of people.
The racists are obsessed with skin colour of people. This is to the extent that they wrongly call their own colour “white.” This is a fake invention and myth. They use this “white” colour for “white supremacy” in order to dominate those they heinously believe are “inferior” in this world. The indisputable fact, however, is that there are no “white” people on this earth. White is the colour of snow or milk. People who call themselves “white” are totally mistaken about their skin colour. King Somhlolo of Swaziland described their colour as “red-maize.”
The message from the dark deed of Charleston at which nine African American people were shot while praying and worshipping God demonstrates that this myth of “white supremacy” which is equivalent to Adolf Hitler’s Aryan race has gone eccentric.
This reminds of the clarion call that Muwalimu Julius Nyerere, the first President of Tanzania made long time ago. He said “Africans must refuse to be humiliated, exploited and pushed around. And with the same determination, we must refuse to humiliate, exploit and push others around.” This blood of innocent martyrs is a wakeup call that there are people who want to perpetuated imperialist domination contrary to Biblical teachings which the African Methodist Episcopal Church has defended since it was formed.
Let me now remind how the African Methodist Episcopal Church came about. Salle Ronald and Behm Columbus in their book, YOUR GOD IS TOO WHITE have written, “Large numbers of Negroes had been drawn to this church [St. George’s Church] and had been permitted to occupy comfortable seats on the main floor, but owing to the increasing popularity of St George’s Church, Negroes would be expected to sit in the gallery. Aware of this new sitting arrangement, Richard Allen and Absalom Jones and other Negroes took seats in the front of the gallery overlooking the places which they had previously occupied. The church authorities had actually reserved an even less conspicuous place for the Negro worshippers in the rear of the gallery, and they soon made this quite apparent. We had not been long on our knees,” Richard Allen recalled, “before I heard considerable scuffling and low talking. I raised my head and saw one of the trustees…having hold on the Rev. Absalom Jones, pulling him up off his knees, and saying you must get up. You must not kneel here! Jones thereupon requested that the officials wait until prayers had been completed. When the trustees persisted, however threatening forceful removal, we all went out of the church in a body and they (whites) were no more plagued by us.”
This is how obsessed with colour racists are, even claiming a colour that is fake for themselves. Anyway this is how the AME Church was formed. It has firmly preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ as authorised in the Bible, without the slightest deviation. Its two mottos have been “God our Father, Jesus Christ our Redeemer, Holy Spirit our Comforter.” The original slogan was “God our Father, Christ our Redeemer, Man Our Brother.”
The AME Church was formed in 1787. It is the oldest Black church outside countries like Mizraim (ancient Egypt) and Ethiopia. The African people in these countries accepted the Gospel of Jesus Christ as early as the first century. Acts 8:26-40 and Isaiah 53 establishes this historical fact. The AME Church has fearlessly denounced racial discrimination in all its shades and forms.
In South Africa, the first Africans to form African churches because of racial discrimination in colonially European headed churches were men such as Nehemiah Tile, Mangena Mokone, James Dwane. They were largely influenced by Richard Allen, especially. The practice of racial discrimination was wide spread in all African countries seized and colonised by Europeans through the Berlin Act of 26 February 1885.
The Rev. Ndabaningi Sithole of the then Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe remarked about colonial Christianity as against the genuine Biblical Christianity. He has written, “If the Bible preached that the individual is unique, of infinite worth before God, colonialism in many respects said just the opposite, so that Biblical teachings were at variance with colonialism and it became only a matter of time before the one ousted the other.”
In the light of what our African brothers and sisters experienced at Charleston, Carolina on 17 June 2015, let us look at the Black Family publication that was issued by The National Committee of Black Churchmen on 13 June 1969. It reads: “In spite of brutal deviation and denial, the Black community has appropriated the spurious form of Christianity imposed upon it and made it into an instrument for resulting oppression. It has enabled black communities to live through unfulfilled promises, unnecessary risks and inhuman relationships. As Black theologians address themselves to the issues of the black revolution, it is incumbent upon them to say that the black community will not be turned from its cause, but it will seek complete fulfilment of the promises of God. Black people have survived the terror. We now commit ourselves to the risks of affirming the dignity of black Christians….”
Those who practise the idolatry of “white supremacy” must be reminded that Jesus Christ, while here on earth was not “white” or a “European.” As a human being here on earth, He came through David’s family tree. David’s wife Bathsheba was a non-European. Matthew 1:1—17 clearly reveals that Jesus Christ was non-European. Jesus affirms His earthly bloodline in Revelation 22:6.
It is also important to remember that soon after His arrival on this planet as a holy baby he was whisked off to Mizraim (ancient Egypt of Pharaohs who were black). Jesus found refuge in Africa. He was protected by Africans here. He learned how to crawl and to walk in Africa. He drank water from the River Nile and was sustained with fresh milk from the cows of Africa.
The first man on this earth to touch the blood of Jesus Christ was Simon of Cyrene, a city in Phut named after one of a son of Ham (Mark 15:21). A Jewish historian Flavious Josephus who was also an army commander in Galilee during the first century has described Jesus as “a man of plain looks, extremely intelligent and full of vigour with a dark skin.”
The world must condemn the insane massacre of nine black people inside the African Methodist Episcopal Church on 17 June 2015. Its barbarians were influenced by the superstition of the myth of “white supremacy,” while in fact, there are no “white “people in this world. Only snow and milk can be described as white.
The Bible says, God said “Let us make man in our image and after our likeness….”(Genesis 1:26). Man whether, black, pale, red, pink, brown or yellow is God’s masterpiece of creation. Overwhelmed by the wonder that man is, the psalmist wrote, “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have ordained, What is man, that you have made….For you made him a little lower than the angels and have crowned him with glory and honour” (Psalm 8:3-5). This applies to all human beings on this planet.
The Apostle Paul was not a European. To the Jews he looked like an ancient Egyptian – African, black person (Acts 21: 38). God inspired Paul to write, “And God has made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth….” (Acts 17:26). Paul never preached a “white Jesus.” He said, “And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:1-2). It is this crucified Jesus that the African Methodist Episcopal Church has preached since 1787.
In ending my tribute to our martyrs of Charleston African Methodist Episcopal Church, especially, let me once again invoke the words of President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania: “Africans must refuse to be humiliated, exploited and pushed around. And with the same determination, we must refuse to humiliate, exploit and push others around.” Jesus Christ Himself has commanded: “TREAT OTHERS THE SAME WAY YOU WANT THEM TO TREAT YOU” (Luke 6:30, Matthew 7:12).
By Dr. Motsoko Pheko
The writer is author of several books on history, politics, theology and law. During the liberation struggle he represented the victims of apartheid at the United Nations in New York as at the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva. He is a former Member of the South African Parliament.