Calgary

Orlando shooting victims remembered at Calgary's Deer Park United Church

About 40 Calgarians gathered in a show of solidarity for the LGBT community following the shooting spree in Florida that left 49 people dead when a gunman opened fire in a gay nightclub.

Hate within the Christian community is the 'wrong message,' pastor says

About 40 people gathered at Deer Park United Church to show solidarity with the LGBTQ community. (CBC)

About 40 Calgarians gathered in a show of solidarity for the LGBT community following the shooting spree in Florida that left 49 people dead when a gunman opened fire in a gay nightclub.

"It's important to show support for the LGBTQ community primarily, but also to say that a lot of the hate that is voiced by many people within our faith — the Christian faith — is the wrong message," said Tom Melvin, the minister at Deer Park United Church, who organized the Wednesday night vigil.

Minister Tom Melvin says all are welcome at at Deer Park United Church. (CBC)

"We want people to know there's another message of love and inclusion, acceptance, tolerance and trying to build bridges and welcome all people," he said.

Those who attended lit candles, sang hymns and spoke of the need for unity and peace.

Members of the Deer Park United Church lit candles in remembrance of the 49 people who died in Orlando. (CBC)

"My son is gay and goes to an LGBTQ club with his partner, who is of Muslim faith," said Bob Wilson. "[It] could have been my son who's one of the victims. It's really quite terrifying actually."

'It's really quite terrifying actually. People can go to a place that they deem of safety and end up being dead and losing a friend,' says Bob Wilson, whose son often frequents gay nightclubs with his Muslim partner. (CBC)

"Everybody deserves to be who they are, and to be accepted. Everybody deserves love and enjoying life, no matter what gender or faith," Wilson added.

Many people spoke of the shock they felt after hearing of the shooting and vowed to stand by minority groups.

"I was devastated, shocked to hear about the Orlando shooting," said Carmelle Pauly, a Grade 11 student at Bishop Grandin High School — a Catholic school in the city's southwest.

Carmelle Pauly, 17, says it was important to show Calgary that the church supports the LGBTQ community. (CBC)

"It's important for me to be here tonight to remember and mourn those affected by the Orlando shooting and to show the rest of Calgary that we are in support of the LGBTQ community," the 17-year-old said.

Kiran McKee, a registered social worker at Deer Park United, said it was important to offer members of the church a familiar place to grieve.

"I honestly thought we were beyond this in our society and it was possible for the LGBT community to be safe," McKee said.

Social worker Kiran McKee says she struggled for days to process the horror of the killings. (CBC)

"It's scary, because for many folks in the LGBT community, the clubs are really your safe space. It's a space where you feel free to be yourself and when something like this happens, it's terrifying," she added.

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