Evangelical leaders have called for action over gun violence in the wake of the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida that left 17 dead and dozens injured last Wednesday.
A petition calling for 'action' as well as prayer has been signed by pastors, church leaders and others with influence who are urging the faith community to acknowledge their biblical responsibility to protect life amid the nation's gun violence epidemic.
'As we mourn for our brothers and sisters who have died, we pray fervently for their friends and family who grieve. We also accept and declare that it is time to couple our thoughts and prayers with action,' the petition states. 'We call on our fellow Christian believers, church leaders, and pastors across the country to declare that we will decisively respond to this problem with both prayer and action.'
The petition has already been signed by a number of leaders, including Rev Dr Rob Schenck, president of The Dietrich Bonhoeffer Institute and the subject of the Emmy award-winning gun violence documentary The Armor of Light; Dr Joel C Hunter, faith community organiser and retired senior pastor of Northland Church; Lynne Hybels, co-founder of Willow Creek Community Church; Dr Preston Sprinkle, teacher, speaker and New York Times best-selling author; and Kathryn Freeman, director of public policy, Christian Life Commission, Texas Baptists (The Baptist General Convention).
Schenck declared that the US is in a 'moral emergency'. He said: 'The murder of school children in a mass shooting is never just "another". That's not acceptable in a civilized culture. When children wake up in the morning, they should only worry about homework or a test, not whether they will be killed in a hail of gunfire. No parent should worry that a gun battle will break out or that they'll be met at the end of the school day at the emergency room by a grim-faced chaplain.
'If the solution to this deadly disease in American society is more guns, then the United States – with over 300 million weapons in general circulation – would be the safest place on earth. We have a moral emergency in our country. It's time we wake up, face it, and fix it. Now. Fellow faith leaders, I hope you'll join myself, along with other church leaders and pastors and sign this petition letting the rest of our nation know that we're committed to responding to the gun violence plaguing our nation with both prayer AND action.'
Hunter added: 'If not now, when? When will Christian leaders and all people of faith, the moral leaders of our society, recognise that our culture has so radically changed from the one that established the Second Amendment that its intent would now be better fulfilled with common sense qualifiers.
'In a society that is normalising violence daily by constant news focus, video games and epidemic anger, why not at least keep weapons of mass murder out of the hands of the insane and the untrained? Such a movement will not start with politicians who are simply angling toward their own reelection. It is up to us.'
The petition came after young student organisers told US media outlets on Sunday that they were determined to make the shooting, which left 17 students and staff members dead, a turning point in the national gun debate. The attack was the deadliest US school shooting since 2012.
Survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas announced their March for Our Lives campaign. They are planning to march on Washington on March 24 to demand that children and their families 'become a priority' for US lawmakers, and hope that other protests will take place simultaneously in other cities on the same day.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump attacked the FBI and lawmakers probing suspected Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election, drawing sharp criticism for saying an excessive focus on Russia led investigators to miss signs that could have prevented the deadly school shooting in Florida.
Learn more and sign the petition at http://www.prayersandaction.com