Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, is requesting prayers for U.S. bishops and students calling for changes to gun laws in the wake of a mass shooting at a Florida high school February 14.
“I ask you to uphold these bishops in advancing their cause and in standing in solidarity with the young people who are speaking out in your prayers,” Hiltz said in a statement released Friday, February 23.
The primate was referring to Bishops United Against Gun Violence, an Episcopalian group urging laws banning assault weapons, and to a number of high school students and others who have begun to voice similar calls after the shooting in Parkland, Fla.
Seventeen people—14 students and three staff members—died and 14 were wounded after a man arrived at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School with a semi-automatic rifle and opened fire. Nikolas Cruz, a 19-year-old former student, later confessed to the shootings.
“The heart of America is aching in the aftermath of yet another tragic school shooting,” Hiltz said, noting the many people in the United States and around the world are gathering in vigils for the attack’s victims. “My own heart—and I know the heart of this Church—goes out to all of them in their grief.”
It was the 17th time so far in 2018 that a gun had been fired on a school property in the United States, the primate said, and the eighth time that people had been injured or killed as a result. There have been nearly 300 school shootings in the United States since 2013—an average of about one per week, he said.
One thing remarkable about this latest shooting, the primate said, was the “tremendous resilience” of young people who have been motivated by it to speak out about gun violence in the country.
“While some people note that many of the shooters have serious mental health issues or have links with terrorist groups, and that needs to be acknowledged, many others are asking deeper questions about ‘the gun culture’ across the United States,” Hiltz said.
“These students are speaking out with a courage and conviction that cannot go unnoticed,” he said. “Their cry for reform will not pass soon as some might expect and others might hope.” Many other Americans have recently joined the students in their expressions of concern, the primate noted.
Meanwhile, he said, Bishops United Against Gun Violence has been arranging services of lamentation for the victims of the shooting, while calling for engagement with politicians on gun laws. The group wants to make clear to U.S. politicians “that they must vote in the interest of all Americans, including law-abiding gun owners, and in passing life-saving common-sense gun policies,” he said, quoting a statement issued by the group since the shooting.
The primate urged prayers for the bishops and the students, who, he said, “are already working very hard as ‘the restorer of the streets’ (Isaiah 58:12) in which all can live safely and peaceably.”