World Council of Churches head outraged by Orlando shooting, urges automatic weapons' control

(Photo: © Peter Kenny / Ecumenical News)Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of Churches preaches at the (Lutheran) Church of the Holy Redeemer in Jerusalem on Feb. 10, 2016.

The general secretary of the World Council of Churches has expressed "shock, outrage and sadness" over the mass shooting in Orlando, Florida on June 12 said to be the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.

In the attack, 50 people are reported to have lost their lives and 53 more were wounded in an attack by a single gunman on a nightclub frequented by members of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual community.

"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," said WCC general secretary Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit in a statement on June 13.

"I pray for God's healing and comfort for all whose lives have been altered forever by such destructive and corrosive hatred."

The shooter was said to be a Muslim man, Omar Mateen, who was nominally affiliated with the ultra-extremists Islamic State group and who was said to have been enraged by the site of men kissing, The Washington Post reported.

Tveit was joined in offering his condolences by the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town Thabo Makgoba who described the attack on the Florida night as a "terrible massacre."


"We pray for the recovery of those injured, for the LGBT community and the people of Orlando." said Makgoba in a statement from South Africa.

Tveit noted that the Florida attack took place in a nightclub frequented by LGBT people, and that the crime may have been motivated at least in part by the perpetrator's perception of his religious heritage.

He 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," the WCC general secretary noted.

"I appeal to politicians, religious leaders and community leaders to act as one in standing against it."

Tveit also said, "We must reject any attempt to stigmatize Muslims in general for one troubled individual's action.... Such an attitude only guarantees further polarization that is dangerous to all."

The WCC leader said the attack raises again the "vexed question" of control of automatic and semi-automatic weapons in the United States.

"This must be a turning point in addressing the need to restrict access to weapons in the U.S., 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."

Pope Francis had on June 12 offered his prayers and compassion for those affected by the nightclub shooting.

In a June 12 statement Fr. Federico Lombardi, the Holy See press officer, said the "terrible massacre," which has left a "dreadfully high number of innocent victims, has caused in Pope Francis, and in all of us, the deepest feelings of horror and condemnation, of pain and turmoil before this new manifestation of homicidal folly and senseless hatred."

"Pope Francis joins the families of the victims and all of the injured in prayer and in compassion," the statement read. "Sharing in their indescribable suffering he entrusts them to the Lord so they may find comfort."

"We all hope that ways may be found, as soon as possible, to effectively identify and contrast the causes of such terrible and absurd violence which so deeply upsets the desire for peace of the American people and of the whole of humanity."

The Council on American-Islamic Relations Pittsburgh Chapter sent a June 12 statement, condemning the "horrifiic" mass shooting.

"Pittsburgh Muslim community join their fellow Americans in condemning Sunday's horrific mass shooting at a nightclub in Orlando," said Safdar Khwaja, president of the Pittsburgh chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

"Such lunacy has no place in our nation. We offer our heartfelt condolences to the families and loved ones of the victims. Prayer and blood donations are requested for the victims."

The statement goes on to say that the Muslim community joins the rest of America in "rejecting anyone or any group that would claim to justify or excuse such an appalling act of violence."

Copyright © 2015 Ecumenical News