Photo Credit: City of Orlando Police Department
[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] Nearly 24,000 people have said that they will attend a candlelit vigil for the victims of last Sunday’s shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in which 49 people were killed and a similar number injured.
Organisers say that “the spirit of this event is in its purest form is a gathering of friends who want to not only mourn the loss of 49 amazing souls but also to send one very vivid pulse of love and unity.” They say that the event, at Lake Eola, “is not a religious, political or brand powered vigil” but will instead provide a space to “silently honour and remember the events that transpired” last Sunday.
“Bring candles, water and hugs for yourselves and a few new friends. It would be nice if everyone brought something to share to show our community's strength and support for one another.”
The event will begin with music at 6.00pm and will culminate in a silent vigil from 8.15pm to 8.26pm, coinciding with sunset.
The Cathedral of St Luke, just a short walk from the Pulse nightclub, will hold a brief special service at 6.00pm before the congregation walk to Lake Eola for the vigil. It is one of many services that have been held in response to the killings, which have been described as the largest deliberate murder of members of the gay and lesbian community since the Holocaust.
The Cathedral’s deacon, the Revd Nancy Oliver, went to the Orlando Regional Medical Centre to assist the victims and their families as news of the shooting began circulating in the early hours of last Sunday. “I ordered an urn of coffee and some cases of water to come out here for people who are standing here,” she told the Orlando Sentinel newspaper. “I’ve prayed with a few people. I've listened to stories. That's all you can do right now. Just be here.
“I tend to think that the world is good. But when you get into a situation like this you go ‘what is going on.’ Lives have changed. It’s a ripple effect. This is not going to be easy to get through for a lot of people.”
Services to mark the tragedy have been held throughout the world. In Australia, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and New South Wales Premier Mike Baird joined NSW Governor David Hurley and the American Consul General, Hugo Llorens at a service in St Andrew’s Cathedral, Sydney.
“We gather to mourn the dead, to offer comfort and sympathy, to renounce evil, hatred and violence, to pray for peace and freedom for all, to share the hope that is offered in the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ,” the Very Revd Kanishka Raffel, Dean of Sydney, said in opening the service. "We offer our sympathy and condolences to all LGBTI people knowing this crime targeted their community and we condemn all violence against people on the basis of their sexuality.”
In a sermon, Archbishop Glenn Davies described the shooting as “crime of hate”; and said it was “a loss for the LGBTI community, it is a loss for the American people, it is a loss for us in Australia, it is a loss for all humanity. I t is also a loss for God.
“It is only seven months ago that we gathered in this Cathedral to mourn with members of the French community following the attacks on Paris where 130 people were slain. Twelve months before that we mourned the deaths of those killed in the Martin Place siege. ‘When will this end?’ we cry!”
The Primate of Australia, Archbishop Philip Freier, said: “It is always wrong to target any people because of their sexual orientation, whether it is name-calling in the school playground or this sort of atrocity. Homophobia is always and everywhere wrong. But it would also be wrong to blame Muslims or Islam as a religion for the actions of [the perpetrator].
“Along with my prayers for the victims’ families and loved ones, I also hope and pray that there is no backlash against Australian Muslims. Christians know what it is to be targeted by extremists because of their faith, and we do not want to see Muslims or people of other faiths or none suffer such persecution.”
In Canada, Archbishop Fred Hiltz called on Anglicans to pray in response to the tragedy. “As I have been travelling over the last number of days, I have watched – horrified – as once again the people of the United States of America are plunged into national mourning in the wake of yet another mass shooting,” he said. “A hailstorm of gunfire has left 49 people dead, 53 seriously wounded, their families in shock and grief, the LGBTQ+ community traumatised, Muslim communities shaken and all people of goodwill horror-struck.”
The Episcopal Church in the Philippines was holding a clergy summit as news of the attack emerged. “We are one with those praying for the victims, their relatives and friends in condemning such cowardice act of violence,” one of the participants said. “we all stood firm in condemning such an act.”
And in Scotland, the Bishop of Edinburgh, the Rt Revd Dr John Armes, said: “Our world feels ugly at the moment. Foul rhetoric demonising difference. Lust for power without responsibility. Tunnel-visioned ignorance masquerading as idealism. Walls dividing ‘us’ from ‘them’; barriers bequeathed to our children and children’s children. Fear on fear; fear breeding fear. None of this peculiar to the USA, even if their daft gun laws seem to invite mayhem.”
Prayers are expected to be said for the injured and families of the bereaved at services around the world this weekend.