Religious leaders in Central Florida called Monday for interfaith unity and cooperation after a gunman killed 49 people Sunday in the worst mass shooting on U.S. soil. The gunman, Omar Mateen, was a Muslim who was born in the United States but hadpledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, law enforcement officials said. There has been a sharp rise in anti-Muslim attacks across the country over the past year after terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, sparked fear and backlash against the American Muslim community. Rabbi Steven Engel of the Congregation for Reform Judaism, the largest synagogue in Orlando, spoke with Imam Muhammad Masri, president of the Islamic Society of Central Florida, to plan a memorial service for victims of the Pulse nightclub massacre, theForward, a Jewish news site, reported Monday. “(We want) to support each other, to support the whole community,” Masri said outside the club. After each new attack, Muslims in the U.S. have said they fear an increase in anti-Muslim rhetoric, and many Muslims rushed to condemn Sunday’s shooting. Last December, many Republicans urged the U.S. to stop accepting refugees from the Middle East — many of whom are Muslim — after the San Bernardino killings out of a fear that terrorists would sneak into the country amid refugees. Presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump responded similarly on Sunday, reiterating his previous call to ban all Muslims entering the United States. Masri emphasized that the Orlando shooter was an American and would not be affected by policies like the one proposed by Trump. “He came from two hours away. You can’t put a border to stop someone like this,” Masri said. He added that he did not consider the shooter to be a Muslim, the Forward reported.
Pope Francis, meantime, spoke up Monday about the easy availability of weapons in the world:
Pope Francis on Monday lashed out at the “brazen” freedom with which weapons circulate in the world when compared with numerous obstacles to distributing aid. His remarks at a United Nations World Food Program event came one day after the bloodbath in an Orlando nightclub ranked as the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. Francis told the audience it was a “strange paradox” that aid and food are obstructed by barriers including political decisions and skewed ideology but “weaponry is not.” “It makes no difference where arms come from — they circulate with brazen and virtually absolute freedom in many parts of the world,” the pope said.
And the gunman’s father expressed his sorrow and regret:
The Orlando gunman’s father publicly apologized for the bloodbath carried out by his son, saying early Monday he doesn’t know what caused the massacre. American-born Omar Mateen, 29, killed at least 49 people at a gay nightclub in Florida before he was shot dead by SWAT officers. Law enforcement sources told NBC News Mateen — who worked as a security guard — swore allegiance to the leader of ISIS moments before the rampage. Sediqque Mir Mateen told NBC News that he hates “terrorism” and “ISIS” — saying that “they should be destroyed.” He added: “I always [was] telling him that … the terrorists and terrorism are the enemy of the whole humanity.” The elder Mateen — who lives in the U.S. and frequently posts videos about politics in his homeland of Afghanistan — apologized for his son’s actions on Monday. “I am really sorry and have expressed this to the people of the United States, especially in this holy month of Ramadan,” Mateen added in the Facebook video. “What he has done has shocked me … I ask God for help and guidance.”
Meantime, read what Tom Hoopes has written about all this and the Christian response on Aleteia’s home page. We have a special responsibility as “People of the Cross” to respond to this tragedy with compassion and love:
In the wake of the tragedy of Orlando, all of us — Longinuses, Magdalenes and Beloved Disciples — have a duty to reach out with kindness, comfort and courage. What is forbidden is to turn our back on the suffering. After all, they are suffering with us.
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