(Photo: AP Images / Victor R. Caivano)
Though the gunman who killed 12 children at a school in western Rio de Janeiro in Brazil asked God for forgiveness in a letter that was found on him, some evangelical theologians and pastors are convinced he won’t be forgiven.
"There is nothing in the Bible to justify the murderer’s postmortem request for forgiveness,” Brazilian Theologian and Presbyterian pastor Augustus Nicodemus Lopes told The Christian Post.
Wellington Menezes de Oliveira, 23, entered Tasso da Silveira elementary and middle school during class Thursday morning, pretending to be a lecturer. When he was questioned, he opened fire with guns in both hands.
When he was met by police and shot in the leg, the young gunman shot himself.
A letter, found in his pocket, made clear that the shooting was premeditated and that the intended to die. But Oliveira did not reveal any motives.
The letter interestingly reflected both Islamic and Christian ideas. Oliveira, who has been described by friends and relatives as quiet and isolated, requested that someone visit his grave and ask God for forgiveness for what he did.
He wrote (translated from Portuguese): "I need a faithful follower of God to visit my tomb at least once; I need that person to pray in front of it, asking for God’s forgiveness for what I did, asking that when Jesus comes he will wake me up from the sleep of death to life."
Lopes, a prominent Brazilian theologian, was shocked by the tragedy and commented about the murderer’s request for forgiveness.
Even without being able to discern Oliveira’s specific faith through his letter, the theologian said that "the condition for forgiveness is repentance of sin" and in this case, “the killer showed no sign of repentance.”
"Asking for forgiveness for what he will do and then going ahead with it means there is no sign of repentance,” he told CP. “It is not that he’ll get forgiveness if we pray and ask God for him. He should have solved this in life."
Trying to identify Oliveira’s religion, the theologian said it is highly unlikely that the gunman was an evangelical because "evangelicals do not say there is a possibility of forgiveness after death."
Lopes linked him more with Catholicism, based on the gunman’s request. “This man leans more toward Catholicism or a vague mysticism."
Socrates Oliveira de Souza, executive director of the Brazilian Baptist Convention, also does not believe that the killer "can have any kind of forgiveness.”
“As he premeditated taking lives and sought to continue killing if not stopped by the police, Oliveira showed no repentance,” he observed.
For him, it is clear what the Bible says. "After death there is no physical possibility of repentance, no possibility of salvation," he told The Christian Post.
Agreeing, Ciro Sanches Zibordi, another evangelical pastor and writer, said "one cannot die as ‘lost’ and gain forgiveness postmortem."
With regard to heaven and hell, Lopes said, "Jesus Christ was the person who most talked about this in the Bible, particularly about hell." The Bible, he noted, does not teach that salvation is for “everyone."
"The Bible says that God is love, but it also says that He is righteous and hates sin."
He also explained that heaven and hell are two "realities that cannot go together.”
“We are going to one or to the other,” he said. "There is no middle ground and the final destination is decided here in this world."
While the letter clearly contained some Christian aspects (asking Jesus for eternal life), Oliveira also made requests that reflected Islam.
"First of all you should know that the impure can’t touch me without gloves,” the letter states. “Only the chaste or the ones that lost their chastity after marriage and haven’t been adulterous may touch me with no gloves."
He also asked to be buried in a white sheet he said he left in a bag at the school, again reflecting some aspects of Islamic tradition.
His sister, Rosilane de Oliveira, 49, said he apparently became a Muslim.
"He was so focused on things related to Islam and had let his beard grow long. He was weird, always on the internet all day reading issues and it was very strange," she said in an interview with Brazil’s Band News.
But the president of the National Union of Islamic Entities in Brazil, Jamel El Bacha, assured on Thursday that the gunman had no ties to Islam. Moreover, the organization condemned the crime, calling it "insane and inexplicable."
Wellington was adopted as an infant. He asked that he be buried near his adoptive mother.
Located near the school where the shooting occurred, is Bethany Baptist Church, which has about 30 children attending that school. Fortunately, no one from Bethany was affected, according to Pastor Neil Barreto.
"It’s the beginning of the end times," Barreto concluded about the tragedy. His church is offering support for the affected families.
"Somehow we all have been affected" by the massacre,” he said.
"It is a demonic action trying to take the children who represent our future and our hope. But it will not succeed."