Closer together

NEARLY any day the stories that grab the headlines emanate from Washington, the Middle East, Central America, Europe -- wherever the world's ``hot spots'' are at the time. But sometimes truly significant developments occur in areas most of the world has never heard of. One is Lancaster County, S.C.

In the last seven months residents of that county have seen firsthand one example of the racial progress much of the American South has made over the past two decades. Last July three black churches were burned by two white men; within hours, a biracial group that included South Carolina's lieutenant governor began a drive to collect funds for rebuilding.

More than $175,000 has been gathered, from the county, other areas of the state, and several other states. A week ago ground was broken for the rebuilding of one church.

When the churches were burned law enforcement officials initially feared there might be revenge and deteriorating racial relations.

But the opposite has happened: Race relations are stronger now than ever. From the beginning, black and white community leaders preached reconciliation and harmony, building on the generally good race relations of recent years. Citizens of both races heeded, and they gave support and money to the rebuilding drive.

The joint effort, says Lancaster's mayor, ``shows the respect we have for each other.'' He adds that the burnings which could have been divisive instead have ``brought us closer together.'' --3O--{et

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