The general secretary of the World Council of Churches expressed “shock, outrage and sadness” over the tragic events in Orlando, Florida on Sunday 12 June 2016. In what is said to be the worst mass shooting in US history, 50 people are reported to have lost their lives and 53 more were wounded in an attack by a single gunman.
Reacting to the news, Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, WCC general secretary, said: “My thoughts and prayers go especially to the families, friends and loved ones of the victims, to the injured, and to the whole community affected by this appalling attack – as they do to so many others around the world touched by violence and brutality in recent days, months and years. I pray for God’s healing and comfort for all whose lives have been altered forever by such destructive and corrosive hatred.”
Noting that the attack took place in a nightclub frequented by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual people, and that the crime may have been motivated at least in part by the perpetrator’s perception of his religious heritage, Tveit called “for all people of faith and goodwill to join in clearly and categorically rejecting violence against people on the basis of their sexual orientation, regardless of differing religious perspectives regarding homosexuality.”
“Whether the act of a disordered individual, or a disordered group or ideology, this atrocity calls for universal community solidarity against violence and discriminatory hatred,” Tveit added, “and I appeal to politicians, religious leaders and community leaders to act as one in standing against it.”
“We must reject any attempt to stigmatize Muslims in general for one troubled individual’s action,” he added. “Such an attitude only guarantees further polarization that is dangerous to all.”
The attack raises again the vexed question of control of automatic and semi-automatic weapons in the United States. Speaking to this issue, Tveit said, “This must be a turning point in addressing the need to restrict access to weapons in the US, particularly the legality of carrying semi-automatic weapons. I hope and I pray that some more hearts and minds will have been changed by this tragedy, and that they will add to a growing groundswell of support for logical, necessary and long-overdue controls to protect people and communities from such attacks in future.”
A prayer for those caught up in the Orlando tragedy
Almighty God, you who overcome the arrow that flies by day
and the terror that stalks by night:
guard our going out and our coming in;
and keep our hearts from hopelessness.
In the face of brutality, in the midst of violence, in the aftermath of tragedy;
in Orlando, Florida and throughout the shattered places of this world;
Be with us and correct us wherever your name is blasphemed as a motive for murder,
and tenets of world faiths are perverted and portrayed as sources of hatred.
Lord, bring us closer to one another, to comfort and reassure; bless the wounded of Orlando,
and the families, friends and loved ones of all who suffer and die;
grant that we may overcome evil together, through unity in your love. Amen.