In the early hours of the morning of June 12, there was a mass shooting at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. A total of 49 people were killed, in addition to the gunman, and 53 others were wounded inside the nightclub. The attack is the deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman in U.S. history, the deadliest incident of violence against LGBT people in U.S. history, and the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil since the September 11 attacks.
The assailant was identified as 29-year-old Omar Mateen, an American-born U.S. citizen born to parents of Afghan background. Reports indicate that Mateen was a regular patron of the nightclub. During the attack, Mateen claimed to pledge allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a Sunni militant jihadist organization, which later claimed responsibility for the attack. Investigators have yet to formally link Mateen to the ISIL group, and cautioned that the attack may have been ISIL-inspired without being ISIL-directed.
Christian leaders have responded to the tragedy, with many urging Christians not to hate their LGBT or Muslim neighbors. Franklin Graham writes on Facebook: "My prayers are with the many victims and family members who lost loved ones in the senseless shooting-now being called an act of terrorism-at a gay nightclub in Orlando early this morning. Life is precious, and we only have one chance to live our lives here on this earth."
Matt Chandler is in agreement. "What a horrific act of evil. Christians your Muslim friends & neighbors woke up this morning wondering how they will be viewed. Love them."
Likewise, author and speaker Russell Moore writes: "Christian, your gay or lesbian neighbor is probably really scared right now. Whatever our genuine disagreements, let's love and pray.
Beth Moore tweeted: "Have had a quiet morning and only now heard the news about the horror in Orlando. Sobbing. Praying. Deeply sorrowful over this madness."