Australia’s most senior figure in the Anglican Church has spoken out about the massacre of 49 people in Orlando, saying it would be wrong to blame Muslims or the Islamic religion for the actions of gunman Omar Mateen.
Dr Philip Freier, the Melbourne Archbishop, made the comments after some religious and political leaders in both America and Australia pointed blame at Islam and immigration.
Dr Freier spoke against discrimination not just against the LGBTI community, but across the board.
“The horrific slaughter of 49 people in Orlando, Florida, by an apparently unhinged gunman is profoundly saddening and shocking,” he said in his statement. “Anglicans, along with other Australians, have been moved by this senseless loss of life.
“It would be wrong to blame Muslims or Islam as a religion for the actions of Omar Mateen.”
“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 Omar Mateen. Although he claimed to be acting on behalf of Islamic State, it has since emerged that he was a regular patron of the gay nightclub.”
Dr Freier, who is the leader of the Anglican Church for the nation, also urged Australians not to unjustly take anger out on people of Islamic faith.
“Along with my prayers for the victims’ families and loved ones, I also hope and pray that there is no backlash against Australian Muslims,” he said. “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…suffer such persecution.”
An ecumenical service called Light of Hope in Darkness will be held at 6pm this evening at St Paul’s Cathedral in Melbourne, to remember the victims of the massacre.
The service will be attended by leaders and representatives of the Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu and Christian faiths, as well the Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, government representatives, and international diplomats. It will be open to the public with a message given by Reverend Dr Simon Holt of Collins Street Baptist Church.
Dr Andreas Loewe, the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, spoke in support of the gay community.
“Tonight we come together to give voice to our distress and sorrow, to mourn those murdered, and to support the wounded, bereaved and traumatised,” he said. “We stand side by side with members of the LGBTQI community here in Melbourne and throughout Victoria, and with countless people the world over who like us condemn homophobia, hate crime, persecution and violence.”
A prayer vigil will be held in Melbourne’s Federation Square from 5pm.