Terror attack in Orlando

50 dead in Sunday shooting. Killer scouted out Downtown Disney and other attractions before selecting a gay nightclub as his target.

Churches across Florida have responded to Sunday’s Islamist terror attack on an Orlando nightclub with calls to prayer and conversion. Spontaneous prayer vigils and worship services were held in their hundreds across Central Florida on Sunday in the wake of the most deadly terrorist incident on American soil since the 9/11 attacks. At 2:00 am on Sunday 12 June 2016 Omar Mateen, born in the United States in 1986 to immigrant parents from Afghanistan, entered Pulse, a popular Orlando nightclub that caters to a “gay” clientele, and began to shoot.  A licensed security guard who lawfully possessed a pistol and automatic rifle, Mateen shot over 100 people whilst shouting “Allahu Akbar”.  An off duty police officer working as a security guard returned fire, but was driven from the building by Mateen.  At approximately 5:00 am police stormed the building killing Mateen, who was wearing what witnesses described as an explosive vest. Florida awoke to the news of the massacre and as the day progressed saw the death toll climb to 50 with 53 wounded. News reports revealed the Mateen, a resident of Port St Lucie on Florida’s Atlantic Coast, went from a relatively normal American life towards extremism, and was investigated several times by the FBI for his jihadist sympathies. However, at the time of the attack, the FBI stated Mateen was not under observation.  The 29-year old killer’s family told NBC news their son’s crimes had “nothing to do with religion” and that they were mystified by the attack, but speculated his actions might be in response to his loathing of homosexuals. However, the killer’s father, Seddique Mateen, has been identified as an exiled Afghan politician and supporter of the Taliban. Mateen’s ex-wife, some media outlets have reported, was aware of the killer’s intentions, adding that Mateen scouted out Downtown Disney and other Central Florida attractions before attacking the nightclub. In the wake of the attack the Amaq News service, an unofficial mouthpiece of ISIS, said Mateen was a soldier of the Islamic State while an ISIS radio station, Time magazine reported, claimed Mateen was “one of the soldiers of the caliphate in America.” Floridians of differing social and religious backgrounds have been drawn together by the attack, seeing the attack on a Latin gay nightclub as an attack on all Americans. Speaking from Vicksburg, Mississippi, where he was attending a service commemorating slain civil rights workers, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry said: “We are very aware there are other innocent victims in Orlando, Florida at the shooting there. We pray for the repose of the souls of those who have died. We pray for those who were wounded, that they may have healing. We pray for the families and those who grieve. We pray for our communities, our nation and our world. Indeed, we pray for the entire human family.” Archbishop Foley Beach wrote on his Facebook to ask members of the Anglican Church in North America to  join me in praying for the victims, dead and wounded, and their families of the horrific shooting attack at a nightclub in Orlando.” The Bishop of Central Florida, the Rt. Rev. Gregory Brewer told his clergy he “had to work to take it in. My natural reaction was to keep the horror of this event at a distance- keeping my heart safe from grief and outrage. But slowly, and as an answer to prayer, the sadness, the weariness, the empty silence of mourning poured in. Someone said that the deeper the grief, the fewer the words. That’s how I feel. Words of condolence have little value in the face of this carnage. For right now, all we can do is grieve, pray and support the families of those who have died the best we can.” Bishop Brewer said he would not join the ranks of politicians or activists “to look for someone to blame. Instead – right now – all I want to do is to stand beside, pray, and love as best I can.” There will be opportunities later to address political and social issues. “What I do believe is that love is stronger than death. The promise of resurrection brings courage, and the promise of “a new heaven and a new earth” should fuel all of God’s people to help build a better world,” he said.

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