Influential megachurch pastor Bishop T.D. Jakes compared Sunday morning's gay nightclub massacre in Orlando to the killing of nine Christians last June at the Emanuel AME church in Charleston, South Carolina, and asserted that the Orlando shooting should be identified as both a hate crime and act of terror.
In response to the news that 49 people were murdered and 53 others wounded in Sunday's shooting at the Pulse nightclub, Jakes, a prominent Christian author and senior pastor of The Potter's House in Dallas, posted a video on Monday calling on all Americans to unite in solidarity with the LGBT community.
"I wanted to take a moment to share a statement with you that is on my heart and on the hearts of many, if not millions of Americans around this country. Our heart goes out to Orlando as you face this devastation that occurred this weekend," Jakes said in a short video posted to his Facebook page.
"Forty-nine people, young people at that, have lost their lives in this senseless act of violence. It is just mind boggling how something like that could occur right in our country — 53 wounded and recovering, many in the hospital and a few have gone home but still are suffering senselessly [from violence] that they did not deserve."
Just as Americans across the United States came together in solidarity after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, Jakes called on the country come together following the shooting in Orlando.
"There has been a great deal of talk about this terroristic act that has occurred of such mammoth proportions," Jakes continued. "It is the second-largest travesty to hit this country as an act of terrorism since 9/11. [September 11th] brought us together in solidarity. I pray that we will stand together."
As Sunday's lone shooter has been identified as 29-year-old Omar Mateen, who allegedly pledged allegiance to the Islamic State terrorist organization, much has been made in the news about whether to call the deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman in United States history a hate crime or an act of terror.
"There has been some discussion as to whether it is a hate crime or not. Really, it's both," Jakes explained. "But whether you are hated as African-Americans or hated in South Carolina — simply going in to have prayer on a Wednesday night — or whether you are part of the LGBT community and hated because you decided to go out on a Friday or Saturday night, you ought to be able to leave and go wherever you want to go and decide to go without fear of losing your lives by some extreme person who takes into their own hands to take lives senselessly."
"We stand with you, we hurt with you and we bleed with you," Jakes added. "I love Orlando. I have been there many times, hosted many conferences there. It's a great city, but right now, you are a grieving city. So, we stand with you, we pray with you and we love you. I just wanted to say to you, 'Hang in there. We will get through this in some kind of way together.'"