By BosNewsLife Americas Service with reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
ORLANDO, FLORIDA (BosNewsLife)– Prayer vigils are held in the U.S. state of Florida and nationwide for all victims of the country’s worst-ever shooting incident that killed 50 people and injured 53 in a gay nightclub, Christian officials said.
The overnight Pulse Bar Nightclub attack in Orlando, Florida, by a man claiming allegiance to the Islamic State group, has become the “the deadliest domestic attack in modern U.S. history,” noted the Christian Emergency Network (CEN), a platform of Christian volunteers, community leaders and emergency Christian professionals.
“Given the strong network of Christian churches and ministries working together and the Florida’s exemplary law enforcement and emergency response capacities already in place, the families of the 50 fatalities and 53 injured are being protected and cared for,” added CEN in a statement to BosNewsLife.
CEN, which says it helps “equipping the Church to be aware and ready to respond in emergencies large and small” urged Christians to better prepare for attacks at a time of rising Islamic extremism.
“This incident further underscores the need for the Christian community to identify a security liaison, develop a security plan and work in collaboration with the Christian community at large to provide timely actionable awareness, preparations, and readiness to seize any emergency with the Hope of the Gospel in tangible ways should an incident occur in your community,” said CEN Founder and President, Mary Marr.
‘WAR NOT OVER’
“Clearly, the war on radical jihadist terrorism is not over. We must remain vigilant and report suspicious behavior, get ready, and respond as Jesus would have us do,” added Marr, after consulting “extensively” with “federal and faith based partners”.
CEN said it could confirm that “a review of U.S. federal security briefings prior to this incident did warn of a potential increase in national threats for the month of Ramadan”, seen as a holy month by Muslims.
“CEN Security Officers have reviewed this incident and would confirm there are common indicators such as surveillance, preparation and organization seen in this incident, which compare with recent international incidents,” the group explained.
Forces of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and local police were seen at the scene, where at least one official urged Americans through media to pray. Authorities identified the shooter on Sunday, June 12, as Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old man born in New York with Afghan origins.
Mateen, who was armed with an assault-type rifle and a handgun, was killed in a shootout with reportedly at least 11 police officers inside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Video footage emerged of what appeared back-and-forth shooting.
OBAMA CONDEMNS SHOOTING
In a televised statement, American President Barack Obama later condemned the shooting as “an act of terror and an act of hate”, calling the shooter “a person filled with hatred”.
“As Americans, we are united in grief and outrage,” he said, adding that the attack is “a further reminder of how easy it is for someone
to get their hands on a weapon” and commit violence in the U.S.
He mentioned churches and schools as other examples where deadly shootings have occurred, including during his presidency.
Police investigators said the suspect had called the 911 emergency number claiming allegiance to the Islamic State group, which claimed the attack.
Yet, President Obama cautioned in separate remarks that while the gunman in the Orlando massacre had declared allegiance to the Islamic State and appeared to have been inspired by extremist information on the internet, there was no clear evidence that he had been part of a wider plot directed by the terrorist group.
CEN URGING PRAYERS
“As far as we can tell right now, this is certainly an example of the kind of homegrown extremism that all of us have been so concerned about for a very long time,” he told reporters.
Whatever the reason, CEN said it had urged Christians to pray for “Families of the victims of the Pulse incident, including for the family of the suspected shooter.”
It was also crucial, CEN added, to pray for “a peaceful calm response within the Christian community to any potential backlash within other faith communities subsequent to this incident.”
Christians, it said, should “take this incident as another one of God’s gracious reminders to prepare Biblically to survive and share the Gospel by becoming more aware of what the Bible says about how we should respond, by putting aside the comfortable place of denial, and by getting ready with other Christians locally to respond together.”