Christian leaders mourned the victims of the deadliest mass shooting in recent U.S. history and expressed sympathy for the gay community, the target of the Orlando shooting suspect, Omar Mir Seddique Mateen, who had been interviewed twice in 2013 and 2014 by FBI for alleged “terrorist ties” and swore allegiance to the Islamic State minutes before the massacre.
“Let’s call our congregations to pray together. Let’s realize that, in this case, our gay and lesbian neighbors are likely quite scared. Who wouldn’t be?” Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, wrote on his blog.
“Demonstrate the sacrificial love of Jesus to them. We don’t have to agree on the meaning of marriage and sexuality to love one another and to see the murderous sin of terrorism,” Moore added.
Mateen, 29, who killed 50 people and injured 53 others in an Orlando gay nightclub Sunday morning before being shot dead by a SWAT team, had made “inflammatory comments” to co-workers alleging possible “terrorist ties” in 2013, Al Jazeera quoted Ron Hopper, head of the FBI in Orlando, as saying.
The FBI interviewed Mateen twice, apart from carrying out separate interviews with other witnesses.
“Ultimately, we were unable to verify the substance of his comments, and the investigation was closed,” Hopper said.
Mateen, of Fort Pierce, Florida, who was born in New York, swore allegiance to the leader of Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in a 911 call moments before the shooting at the Pulse nightclub, according to NBC News, which quoted Mateen’s father as saying that his son was furious after he recently saw a gay couple kissing in front of his family.
Islamic State’s Amaq news agency claimed responsibility for the attack Sunday.
“The armed attack that targeted a gay night club in the city of Orlando in the American state of Florida which left over 100 people dead or injured was carried out by an Islamic State fighter,” Amaq said, according to Reuters.
Sateen was likely inspired by Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL or Daesh, which didn’t have a direct role in it, according to reports.
Mateen’s ex-wife said she thinks he was mentally ill.
Like Moore, many other Christian leaders issued statements to express grief.
“Our hearts and our prayers go out to the loved ones of those who were killed and wounded in what appears to be a terrible act of Islamic terrorism,” said Richard Land, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary.
Pastor Miles McPherson of The Rock Church in San Diego, said, “Our hearts grieve with all the family and friends of those effected by today’s tragedy in Orlando. May America’s most deadly shooting be matched by America’s most focused prayers for peace and unity.”
Gordon Robertson, the CEO of the Christian Broadcasting Network, also issued a statement. “There is no justification for this terrible act of violence. All people, regardless of sexual orientation, have the absolute right to be secure and live safely in the United States of America … We also commend the Orlando Police and the FBI for their swift response, ending this nightmare and saving the lives of those they could.”
Senior Pastor Joel C. Hunter of Northland, A Church Distributed said, “There is no place for hate and violence among us. We stand in profound sympathy with the family and friends of the victims. We also pray for those who knew and are horrified by the actions of the perpetrator.”
After the attack, some used social media called for stricter gun laws and some others used the incident to criticise or support a presidential candidate. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton also started exchanging political barbs shortly after the deadly shooting, according to CNN.
Moore said, “In the aftermath, we’ve seen some of the best aspects of America: people lining up, for example, to give blood for the victims. We’ve also seen some of the worst — as the aftermath turned into an excuse for social media wars over everything from gun control to presidential politics. What I wonder is whether the country still has the capacity to grieve, together, in moments of national crisis.”