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The Faith Community’s Role in Charlottesville

Pastors in Charlottesville say they've been working to avoid the kind of violence the city saw over the weekend. (ACLU of Virginia/Twitter)
Pastors in Charlottesville say they've been working to avoid the kind of violence the city saw over the weekend. (ACLU of Virginia/Twitter)
August 14, 2017

RICHMOND, Va. -- Even before this weekend's violent clashes, members of the faith community in Charlottesville say they have been trying to, "stand on the side of love.”

The Rev. Elaine Ellis Thomas is with St. Paul's Memorial, an Episcopal church, and is also part of the Charlottesville Clergy Collective - an interdenominational group trying to make progress on easing racial tension and avoiding violence.

On Saturday, Thomas was in a Methodist church next to the park holding the statue of Robert E. Lee. She said that church had become a refuge from the conflict.

"For a place of safety, for water, to rest; to get some pastoral care, some medical care if they needed it,” Thomas said. "So, we stand on the side of love, because we believe our scriptures across traditions tell us that we must confront evil where we find it."

An Ohio man, described in media reports as a white supremacist, killed one person and injured nineteen others when he drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters. Many have called the act a terrorist attack, though President Donald Trump condemned what he called, “violence on many sides."

Thomas said some members of the clergy protested the right wing gathering with nonviolent obstruction, kneeling in the path of the alt-right demonstrators as they gathered. She said she believes many of those who came to town for the "Unite the Right" rally are motivated by unjustified fears.

"One of the chants that we were hearing is, 'We will not be replaced.' The idea that anyone is trying to replace anyone is astonishing to me, because that is not who and what we are,” she said. "We believe that there is sufficient love, energy, resources, everything - for everybody."

Efforts to remove Confederate monuments in other southern cities have also provoked backlash.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - VA