Reflecting on continued unrest across the country, the keynote speaker at the 26th annual Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast, talked about forgiveness.
This year's topic for the 26th annual breakfast held Monday at St. Peter Claver Catholic Church in Macon was "Reconciliation: Shining a light on forgiveness."
The event was among several held Monday in the midstate to remember and celebrate King's legacy.
John Dunaway, professor emeritus at Mercer University, mentioned how the families of five Amish schoolgirls killed in Pennsylvania in 2006, reached out to the shooter's family after that tragedy. The shooter, Charlie Roberts, blamed God for the death of his first child shortly after she was born, and he told the girls he was angry at God and needed to punish some Christian girls to get even.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Telegraph
"In the midst of their grief of the shocking loss, the Amish community did not cast blame," Dunaway said. "They did not point fingers ... they reached out with grace and compassion toward the killer's family."
He told of a woman speaking after the Charleston, South Carolina church shooting last year where nine people were killed. She said that although her grandfather and the other victims "died at the hand of hate, everyone's plea for your soul is proof they lived in love and their legacies will live in love. So hate won't win."
In many cities, blacks and whites gathered to pray for the families of the Charleston tragedy.
"Such responses as these show the way to reconciliation," Dunaway said.
"Dr. King, were he alive today, would certainly applaud these nonviolent responses to violence," he said. "He, too, repeatedly showed the light of forgiveness on tragic events."
Dunaway said that during his childhood, "the grip of Jim Crow injustices was firmly entrenched. So what kind of man did God raise up to lead the movement to address these injustices? It could have so easily been a hate monger. ... We Americans are so blessed that it was a man steeped in the principles of the gospel. A man who had the courage to accept redemptive suffering with grace."
Among King's words of inspiration that exemplified "godly inspiration," Dunaway said was: "Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon. It is a weapon unique in history, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals."
Dunaway asked attendees as they "go out in a violent world of conflict today ... and keep shining the light of forgiveness on that world."
The breakfast was also a time to recognize the accomplishments of some youth in the community. The agencies who made presentations and the young people honored were:
Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Georgia, Torey Flowers and Khazayvia Hill.
Mentor's Project, Donnie Howard and Tracie Frye.
Motivating Youth Foundation, De'Airran Wooten and Z'Niya White.
MLK Jr. Commission oratorical competition; first place, Janel Moore and second place, Marquez Pitts.
The Rev. Joseph Rodgers encouraged those present to seek out someone in their family or community "to give a word of encouragement or a word of kindness," he said.
"Kindness goes a long way," he said.
MARCHERS MERGE AT GOVERNMENT CENTER
Later in the day, marchers in the MLK Jr. Memorial March, started from four different areas of the city merging at the Macon-Bibb County Government Center.
A short program was sponsored by the Evangelical Ministers Alliance.
Macon-Bibb County Mayor Robert Reichert told the gathering "it is right and it is good that you are all here because to petition the government is one of the rights we all hold dear."
He thanked everyone for what they were doing "to keep the dream alive, to keep the spirit alive."
As the Rev. Edward Dawson, pastor of Unity Missionary Baptist Church, looked out over the large, peaceful crowd, he said, "This is a beautiful sight. This is the way this city should be every day."
To contact writer Linda S. Morris, call 744-4223 or follow her on Twitter@MidGaBiz.