Ban guns, Christians leaders plea in wake of US shooting

Following yesterday's tragic killing of 32 people at the Virginia Tech University, American and world Christian leaders have called on US authorities to end easy access to guns.

"The escalation of gun violence compels us to call for an end to the manufacture and easy distribution of such instruments of destruction," said Rev Robert Edgar, the general secretary of the US National Council of Churches, according to an Ecumenical News International report.

"A faith that expresses compassion for all God's children is opposed to violence in all forms," he said.

In Geneva, World Council of Churches general secretary, Rev Samuel Kobia, asked: "Why are these incidents repeated as if there are no remedies?"

"In deference to those who have died and with concern for the future, we all must ask why such killings happen so easily," Dr Kobia said.

Kobia, a Methodist from Kenya whose own country has seen many shootings due to the prevalence of firearms, added that "we are all Virginians in our sympathy, but many people around the world are also Virginians in their vulnerability to the misuse of unregulated guns."

Police yesterday named the gunman as Cho Seung-hui, a 23-year-old student from South Korea, agencies reported.

The Sydney Morning Herald says that authorities found a receipt for a Glock 9 millimetre handgun, bought on 13 March, in Cho's backpack, which also contained two knives and a cache of bullets. He bought his second weapon, a .22 calibre pistol, within the last week.

Rev Edgar reiterated an earlier call he and other religious leaders made about the need for an end to gun violence in the US. Edgar said: "It is increasingly evident that guns, rather than providing the security people seek and rightfully deserve, only add further to our sense of unease and danger."

Prayers for victims

Meanwhile, in a phone interview just hours after the shootings, Teresa Volante, Catholic campus minister at Virginia Tech, said she had sent out an electronic notice that the Newman Centre chapel was open for anyone who wanted to stop in and pray.

But she told Catholic News the centre, located just off the campus, was rather quiet at that time since the dormitories on campus were still locked down and the off-campus students had been instructed to stay away.

Later in the afternoon Debbie McClintock, a volunteer who came in to help, told Catholic News that a prayer service was scheduled for 7 pm at the centre.

She said people at the centre were calm and were focused on helping anyone who came in.

At St Mary's Parish, the only Catholic parish in Blacksburg, the receptionist said the pastor, Fr James Arsenault, had spent more than three hours at the hospital with those who were wounded before heading over to the university to help there.

Local Catholic Bishop Francis X DiLorenzo of Richmond, Virginia described the killings as "tremendously sad".

"At this time one cannot help but think of the endless years of commitment, of love and care these parents have invested in their children and then have it all cut down by a bullet is tremendously sad," he said.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone also sent a telegram to Bishop DiLorenzo expressing the Pope Benedict's sadness and condolences to all those affected by the shooting.

Cardinal Bertone said in the wake of the "senseless tragedy" Pope Benedict asked him to assure the victims, their families and the entire school community of his prayers.

Pope Benedict "asks God our Father to console all those who mourn and to grant them that spiritual strength which triumphs over violence," Cardinal Bertone said.

US, world Christian leaders urge curbs on arms after shooting (Ecumenical News International
Shooting of Virginia Tech students 'tremendously sad,' bishop says (Catholic News, 17/4/07)
Pope calls Virginia Tech shooting a "senseless tragedy," offers prayers (Associated Press, 17/4/07)
Note reveals hate for 'rich kids' (Sydney Morning Herald, 18/4/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Virginia Tech
Samuel Kobia (Wikipedia)
Virginia Tech (Wikipedia)

Catholics join prayers for Amish school shooting victims (CathNews, 5/10/06)
Catholic high school shooting shocks US diocese (CathNews, 9/3/01)

18 Apr 2007

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