Orlando Massacre

Thoughts and prayers are not enough


This article appeared on TheTorontoSun.com

It is time to build a bridge

By Rev. Majed El Shafie, President & Founder, One Free World International

I have not stopped thinking about the 49 innocent victims whose lives were savagely cut short in Sunday morning’s terrorist attack in Orlando. I have not stopped thinking about the dozens of people from the LGBTQ community who are receiving the medical care they need and will hopefully recover from this horrendous attack. I have said prayers for the victims and their families. But thoughts and prayers are not enough.

As a Christian and a Reverend, my heart aches for the families and friends who have lost loved ones. A man motivated by homophobic hatred committed this attack as he professed allegiance to ISIS and its radical Islamist ideology. In carrying out the largest terrorist attack on North American soil since 9/11, we must renew our commitment to battling the radical Islamist ideology that wages war in Iraq and Syria. We must battle the evil that has struck closer to home from Ottawa to Orlando, Paris and Brussels.

The attacker targeted the patrons of Pulse nightclub because they were different. As a former refugee who faced persecution for converting to Christianity and being different, I am too familiar with the barbaric lengths those motivated by hate will take against those they view as different.

During this time of sorrow and suffering, now is the time for people of faith to unite with our LGBTQ brothers and sisters in love. As a Reverend, for years I have witnessed the perception that LGBTQ people cannot be loved by people in religious communities. While there may be disagreements on certain issues, that does not mean we cannot love each other. In response to these tragic events, people of faith need to reach out to the LGBTQ community and let their brothers and sisters know they are loved. In the aftermath of this tragic loss of precious human life, this cannot be swept under the rug. No one deserves to die to because of who they love, the colour of their skin, or what they believe.

We must come together in defence of each other and our shared values. We must come together and build a bridges between people of faiths and our LGBTQ communities. People of faith need to find the courage to reaffirm our ability to love one another and strengthen our sense of community. The victims of the Orlando attack were targeted for the same reason ISIS targets Christians, Yazidis, and other minorities in Iraq and Syria in their aim of carrying out genocide. We are all different in the eyes of the enemy and must confront it together.

We will rely on the strength of our values: the recognition of the dignity of each human life, honesty, respect for human rights, and a determination in ensuring we can all live safely in pursuing our hopes and dreams. We must defend these shared values. And this must start by building new bridges to unite.

Our political and religious leaders need to be forthcoming in condemning this hatred and having the courage to identify its roots. Christians, Jews, Muslims, and people of other faiths need to speak out to condemn this violence and seize an opportunity to end the historical tension the LGBTQ community has felt for too long, and begin to fight for each other. For if we do not fight for each other, we lose our humanity. After you’ve had some thoughts and said your prayers, it is time to pick up the phone.