Quakers Respond to Orlando Shooting (Updated)

Photo of Orlando Pride Parade, 2008, courtesy of Flickr/growbylove (CC BY 2.0)

Around the web and within Friends organizations and communities, Quakers are responding to the tragic news of a mass shooting that occurred early morning on Sunday, June 12, at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla. Friends Journal sees its role as an amplifier of these Quaker voices. Please let us know of other statements of support in the comments as we pray and mourn with the LGBTQ and Orlando communities.

On Monday morning, New England Yearly Meeting shared a message from the clerk of Orland (Fla.) Meeting via its Facebook page:

New England Yearly Meeting also shared a William Penn quote framed by rainbow hearts on Instagram:


A photo posted by New England Quakers (@quakersofnewengland) on

Friends Committee on National Legislation sent an email to its supporters on the afternoon of Monday, June 13. It was signed by FCNL executive secretary Diane Randall. It’s also been posted to the FCNL website, “Loving Our Neighbors.” Here’s an excerpt:

We are outraged and saddened by the massacre in Orlando on Sunday. We have seen how hate and terror foster violence. And we know that violence breeds more violence. We are holding the families and communities most directly touched by this tragedy in our thoughts and in the Light. And our intentions and hopes are for the collective commitment we share with millions of people around the globe to end the hatred and violence.

FCNL lobbies Congress and the administration for the policy changes that can create a world with equity and justice, a world free of war and the threat of war. We do this day in and day out here in Washington, DC. And we will continue to persistently work for legislation that promotes a better world where love triumphs over fear.

American Friends Service Committee has compiled a list of 10 powerful readings on Orlando, including pieces from the Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity, local LGBTQ leaders, Slate, and The Nation:

As we mourn the tragic deaths of the 50 people killed at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, writers, thinkers, and activists help us make sense of our grief and honor our resilience and resistance.

AFSC’s Acting in Faith blog republished a personal post by Rev. William Barber, II, “On Orlando: Hate cannot have the first, last or loudest word”.

We cannot use the deceit of hate as the path through our pain into our tomorrow. Hate fuels hate. A culture of hate creates actions of hate. Racial hate, LGBTQ hate, religious hate, class hate, and the rhetoric of hate. The culture of hate creates the actions of hate.

The forces of hate have watched people coming together against colonial oppression and exploitation. The forces of hate have seen people in the United States coming together and challenging the system of racism, the system of sexism, and the oppression against LGBT people. The forces of hate have seen millions of white and straight and males coming together rejecting the sirens of extremism.

We are coming together across racial lines, gender identity lines, and religious lines.

AFSC released an official statement on June 13, standing in solidarity with vulnerable communities.

Already, we see politicians and news media stoking fear and hatred by generalizing the acts of one individual to all those of Muslim faith. Yet we know that this fear is misplaced. Intolerance and violence toward gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people is a culture-wide problem, evidenced by a wave of anti-LGBT legislation across the country, venomous rhetoric in the wake of recent victories for equality, and a shocking series of attacks on trans women of color. We fear the backlash following this mass shooting will land on immigrant communities who are repeatedly singled out for unmerited blame as threats. We stand with LGBT people, Muslims, immigrants living in the U.S., and all who are vulnerable in the wake of this attack and the hateful, xenophobic rhetoric that is already on display.

Quaker editorial cartoonist Signe Wilkinson posted this image on Sunday, June 12 at 5:41pm:

Peterson Toscano, “a Quirky Queer Quaker performance artist and scholar,” wrote about the event on his website, “For the victims of the Orlando Massacre–dead and living, near and far”; an excerpt is below. (Peterson was recently featured in a QuakerSpeak video: “How I Survived the Ex-Gay Movement”.)

Hatred and loathing of queer people and violence towards our bodies in the USA is nothing new. It is not simply a thing of the past, a relic dramatically resurrected in an ‪#‎Orlando‬ gay club. The violence has been chronic for some time–a fact those aware of the epidemic of extreme violence towards transgender people know all too well. The perpetrators have so often targeted Black and Latino queer people.

The mourning and outrage over murderous assaults and attempts to terrorize us has been felt already everyday for many days. For years.

Today we feel a collective grief and horror. We seek to make sense of it and to find the culprits to blame–religious extremists at home and abroad, legislators who do not take a stand about gun violence, and the list goes on.

It is hard to make sense of what is happening in the midst of a storm. The media frenzy added to our own individual and collective shock becomes so disorienting. So much is unknown.

But one thing is true and has always been true:
We need each other.
We need each other.
We need each other.



Sa’ed Atshan in Huffington Post:
Gay and Middle Eastern in Post-Orlando America

An FJ author writes in Huffington Post:

In everyone’s flurry to disassociate from Omar Mateen, perhaps we can acknowledge that we all have contributed, in conscious and unconscious ways, to the environment that nurtured this monster. We easily recognize overt forms of homophobia, such as yelling epithets, bullying, discriminating, or enacting violence against LGBTQ people.

Beth Hallowell for AFSC:
Which Orlando narrative should win?

In the aftermath of tragedies like this one, there are tons of facts, rumors, and data points spinning through the media. Narratives – commonly-held storylines that exist in media, in our hearts and minds, and in everyday conversation – help us take these disparate pieces of information and fit them into a coherent story about ‘what happened….’ Most will retreat to their regular corners, relying on prior assumptions rather than new information. This kind of retreat redoubles people’s prior beliefs, for better and for worse.

Blogger Hal Staab: 
The Statement on the Orlando Shooting that I Need to Hear from Quakers

That’s all lovely, but I am sick of it. I am sick to my stomach. I want to turn to my religion for comfort, and indeed there are many Quaker groups and individuals with whom I have found profound solace and solidarity. But if someone were to ask me, I would not be able to say that my religion unequivocally has my back.


2 thoughts on “Quakers Respond to Orlando Shooting (Updated)

  1. As an attender at the Winter Park Friends Meeting, it does my heart good to see this support from the Quaker community at large. Such a tragedy on so many fronts. Holding all victims and their families in the Light and praying for peace!

  2. New Garden Friends Meeting, Greensboro, NC published the following in Tuesday’s Newsletter: (It was followed by a list of possible things to do, some of which were included in the last pages of the much larger document sent to Friends Journal for possible publication – “The Muslim Community’s Hope for Peace in NC”

    New Gardeners Respond to Orlando Violence

    As Quakers who share a fundamental belief in the value of all lives and that there is that of God in all people, we feel called to oppose all acts of intolerance and violence – including the tragic mass violence that has just occurred in Orlando. We are still reeling from Sunday’s news of this devastating loss of life and manifestation of hatred. We are holding the families, loved ones, and friends in the Light, knowing that at the moment very little can diminish the grief or images of violence so many are experiencing.

    Yet, we realize that this is not an isolated event but is related to ongoing forces in our society that promote division and fear. We extend our love and support to members of the many communities who are so frequently targeted as objects of this hatred and violence, including: lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people who have served as targets of political rhetoric and discriminatory legislation; Muslim and recent immigrant communities who have been subject to hate and persecution promoted by politicians who hope to direct the anger and frustration of disenfranchised Americans and mobilize them for election gains; people of color and historically marginalized communities (Black, Native American) who for generations have faced legal and social discrimination that has undermined families and livelihoods; women and children who are victims of domestic or mass violence (such as Sandy Hook); and all people in our society who may not be members of a minority or targeted group but, nevertheless, experience violence or terror.

    As Quakers we also share a belief that “faith without works” is not sufficient. It is often said “they will know us by our deeds” and Quakers of all varieties take this to heart. We continue to look for ways to understand the processes that drive division, fear, and violence against communities. And we look for ways our actions can redirect narratives and change hearts.

    This point is addressed in the following letter to Quakers from the Orlando Quaker Meeting:

    Beloved Friends,

    Orlando Quakers came together in a spirit of love this morning, both at silent worship and in Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business. There were messages about speaking and acting in a spirit of love to all, rather than adding to hatred and fear. I said a few words about how the tragedy impacts me personally (as a lesbian), professionally (as a mental health professional who helps young queer college students), and how it affects ALL OF US as Quakers.

    Friends, family, coworkers, and even random people from Europe have sent messages of encouragement to our meeting’s website. Thank God for Quakers. I really don’t know what I would do without you. You give me hope in a sometimes dark world. Let us all be the light for someone. Not just today, but every day. Please, do not let the fear win. Do not add to the violence. Stand strong as a warrior for peace.

    The message that keeps coming through to me today is a loud and clear one: “No matter what the question is, the answer is love.” Please dear Friends, know that the best thing you can do to support Orlando is to ask yourself, “What loving action is being asked of me in the world today?” And go do that thing, however small it may seem or however difficult it may be to do.

    I love you all beyond words,
    –Stephanie Preston

    End notes:

    1. As was reiterated on May 15th when we shared a meal and discussed islamophobia with a panel of speakers, the Muslim community is diverse and shares many values and beliefs with Quakers and other faiths. In a statement from the Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity on the shooting at Pulse in Orlando Florida, they write: “We ask all Americans to resist the forces of division and hatred, and to stand against homophobia as well as against Islamophobia and anti-Muslim bigotry. Let us remember that the actions of a single individual cannot speak for all Muslims. Let us also remember that there are many straight Muslims who have been strong allies to the Muslim LGBTQ community. We see the beauty in our cultures and our faith traditions, and we have experienced love, acceptance, and support from many in our Muslim communities.”
    2. We may want to remember there have been other mass shootings in U.S. history that have been expressions of bias and desires to eliminate peoples or cultures, such as the mass shooting of Native Americans at Wounded Knee.

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