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New Zealand mosque massacre condemned, prayer pledged

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (BP) — “Evil” and “horrific” are among the ways Southern Baptist Convention leaders described a shooting rampage at two Islamic mosques in New Zealand that left at least 49 people dead today (March 15).

“Religious liberty means freedom to worship according to one’s conscience without fear,” SBC President J.D. Greear tweeted. “It is one of our most precious freedoms and should be enjoyed by all everywhere. We grieve with our Muslim neighbors, weep with them, and stand unequivocally against this evil act.”

The shootings occurred in the city of Christchurch on Friday evening as Muslim worshipers gathered at the Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Mosque, according to media reports. The alleged shooter, who has not been identified publicly by New Zealand authorities, is a 28-year-old male who has been charged with murder, NPR reported. In addition to the dead, at least 48 other victims were hospitalized.

The shooter allegedly livestreamed the attacks from a helmet camera and posted an online document stating he had been planning the attack for two years on behalf of white Europeans as a battle against immigrants, according to media reports. A weapon used in the shooting allegedly was covered in white-supremacist graffiti.

Two other people have been taken into custody in conjunction with the attack, according to media reports.

International Mission Board President Paul Chitwood told Baptist Press, “We weep with the families grieving in the wake of this horrific attack. We join the entire civilized world in condemning this act of hate. We commit to pray for the injured and for these many heartbroken survivors.”

New Zealand’s 4.5 million residents are 44 percent Christian and 1 percent Muslim, according to the CIA’s World Factbook. Thirty-nine percent of New Zealanders claim no religion. According to the Joshua Project, an online resource that estimates the religious breakdown of world nations, 19 percent of New Zealanders are evangelical Christians.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called the shootings a terrorist attack and said her country was targeted “because we represent diversity, kindness [and] compassion.” President Trump tweeted “warmest sympathy and best wishes” to New Zealand “after the horrible massacre in the Mosques.”

The number of victims in Friday’s shootings exceeded New Zealand’s total number of murder victims for 2017: 35, USA Today reported.

Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore tweeted, “The terrorist attacks in New Zealand are horrifying. We should pray and work for swift justice against these murderers, and for grace and comfort for those grieving the loss of family, friends [and] neighbors.”