Prayers Follow N.Y. Immigrant Shootings

Like most pastors, the Rev. Arthur Suggs had prepared a Palm Sunday sermon for this past Sabbath day.

But the pastor of the First Congregational Church in Binghamton, N.Y., had to scrap the sermon after an angry gunman killed 13 people at a nearby immigrant aid center on Friday before killing himself.

Instead, Suggs used the pulpit Sunday to comfort a mourning community, to encourage his congregation to embrace those affected, and to decry a culture that he said has become desensitized to violence.

"I have seen clergy on TV attempting to say something meaningful following Columbine, following Virginia Tech," he told congregants, referring to two of the nation's most prominent shootings, both of which also took place in April.

"I have seen clergy attempt to make some sense out of what is inherently senseless. And now it's my turn," he added.

On Friday, 41-year-old Jiverly Wong burst into the building of the American Civic Association and opened fire, supposedly upset over losing his job at a vacuum plant and about people picking on him for his limited English.

Wong, who was ethnically Chinese, had moved to the United States from Vietnam in the early 1990s and had become a U.S. citizen soon afterward, according to friends and relatives.

Among those he killed were four immigrants from China, one from Brazil, two from Haiti, one from Iraq, one from Pakistan, one from the Philippines, and one from Vietnam. Also killed were two U.S.-born citizens.

Since Friday's tragedy, there have been prayer vigils held and bells tolled for the shooter and the victims.

The bells at Sugg's church tolled 14 times on Sunday at 10:30 a.m. – when the first of several 911 calls to the police were made just days before.

"We hurt. We grieve. We pray for those 14 families," prayed Suggs on Friday, during a prayer service held on the evening of the shootings.

"We pray that You (God) might hold us and this community in the palm of Your hand," he said, according to the Gannett news service.

Elsewhere, Franklin Graham, president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and international Christian relief organization Samaritan's Purse, said he was praying for the survivors and families, friends and colleagues of the shooting victims and hoping the city's residents would find the comfort they seek.

"My hope, in the aftermath of this tragedy, is that the people of Binghamton will turn their hearts to the God of all comfort who is near to all who call on His name," he expressed in a statement.

According to reports, a letter supposedly sent by Wong was received Monday by News 10 Now in Syracuse, postmarked the day of the shooting.

In the letter, Wong said he felt he was persecuted by police, couldn't accept his "poor life" and was intent on cutting it, taking "at least two people with me ... to return to the dust of the earth."

The authenticity of the letter, however, could not be immediately verified Monday. According to The Associated Press, it was sent with photos of Wong with two guns, a gun permit and his driver's license.