Local leaders nominate Charleston church for Nobel Peace Prize


City Clerk Susana  Mendoza and Thornton Township Supervisor Frank Zuccarelli gathered with religious and civic leaders on Oct. 14 to nominate the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, for a Nobel Peace Prize. The church was targeted June 17 in a racially motivated shooting that killed nine members of the congregation. The Emanuel AME church was nominated for the Peace Prize for its response to the event,  Mendoza said. Instead of reacting with hate, the church members chose to act with love and forgiveness, he added.

“The families of the victims and members of the AME church took the right path and [shouldered an] incredible, difficult task as they turned their tragedy into an opportunity to promote peace, unity and forgiveness. They turned tragedy into an example for the rest of the world to follow,” Mendoza said.

Zuccarelli said he created a team—composed of Sen. Donne Trotter (D-Ill.), various Chicago aldermen and civic and religious leaders—in 2014 to search for a candidate to nominate for the Nobel Peace Prize.

 Zuccarelli said there was something unique about how Charleston residents put their faith into action in light of the tragedy, rather than responding with a protest, as did residents of Baltimore, and Ferguson, Missouri, after the deaths of Freddie Gray and Michael Brown. 

“Unlike all the places we studied, Charleston was much different,” Zuccarelli said. 

“We would expect protest and violence, but instead everyone stood together in that community. We realized there was something very unusual about their response that was such a great example for the world. Violence does not breed more violence.” 

The Nobel Prizes, established in 1877, reward innovators in chemistry, physics, medicine, economics, literature and peace. Mendoza said the actions of Charleston citizens embodied the spirit of the Peace  Prize.

“Their message of love, peace and forgiveness in the face of violence and tragedy represents all the things the Nobel Peace Prize sets out to reward,” Mendoza said.

Alderman Howard Brookins (21st Ward), who attended the Oct.14 press conference, said he joined the movement to nominate the church because he believed in its cause.

“With much racial tension popping up throughout the nation, what they did in Charleston is amazing,” Brookins said. 

He said he was impressed that residents were able “to subdue their natural instinct and to actually pray for forgiveness for the person who committed a horrific crime.” 

Trotter is one of the campaign’s leading supporters. He is friends with members of the  Emanuel AME church, including its pastor, who is his fraternity brother. The Nobel Peace Prize winner will not be announced until the fall of 2016, so Trotter said he urges people to sign the online petition nominating Emanuel AME church for the award.

“We want millions of signatures, we even want the president and local officials to embrace this,” Trotter said.

To sign the petition to nominate the Emanuel AME church of Charleston, South Carolina, for a Nobel prize,visit: http://www.nobelpeaceprizeforcharleston.com/