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At The Dr. Phillips Center: How Can Religious Leaders Support Members of the LGBTQ Community Five Years After the Pulse Shooting?

Photo: Danielle Prieur

Members of the interfaith and LGBTQ communities held an Evening of Reflection and Promise in Orlando on Monday to mark five years since the Pulse shooting.

The night honored the Pulse victims with a conversation about the work that religious leaders could do to support survivors and victims’ families in healing from the shooting.

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings says faith communities are especially well-prepared to do this work.

“But whether we adhere to the traditions of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism or any other religion, the most meaningful and powerful tenets of these religions are the same. Understanding, inclusion and good will towards one another.”

Angelica Sanchez, a Black transgender woman who survived the Pulse shooting says it was her faith and therapy that helped her overcome her survivor’s guilt. 

“And when I came back to church to see people saying, ‘where you been baby, we missed you, we love you.’ It’s that sense of community that allowed me to free myself from the bondage and chains that were really holding me from this incident. That I didn’t even realize.”

But Sanchez says some faith traditions still have a ways to go in supporting LGBTQ people. She says some even refused to bury her friends simply because they were gay.

Daniel Downer says it was only by turning to his Muslim community that he was able to heal from the events of that night and the growing Islamophobia he faced as the shooter was Muslim.

“Muslims in Central Florida came together and were saying the same thing: this is not what our faith is about. Our faith is about love, our faith is about acceptance, it’s about unity.”

Downer says he still faces Islamophobia to this day but conversations like this one are a start.

49 people were killed and more than 50 others were injured after a gunman opened fire on the former Pulse nightclub on June 12, 2016, five years ago this Saturday.

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Danielle Prieur

About Danielle Prieur

Reporter & Fill-in Host

Danielle Prieur is a general assignment reporter at WMFE. You can hear her reporting on a daily basis on the station. She also fills-in as a host during the morning and afternoon drive times. Her reporting has been featured on NPR, Marketplace, Here & Now, and Vox. Danielle is originally from Rochester Hills, ... Read Full Bio »