By Junno Arocho Esteves | OSV News
(OSV News) — A gunman killed six people, including an unborn baby, before killing himself in a mass shooting at a Jehovah’s Witness meeting hall in Hamburg, Germany.
According to Hamburg police, a gunman entered the hall March 9 in the evening and “several people were fatally injured, including apparently the suspected perpetrator.”
“Other people were injured by the crime, some seriously,” the Hamburg police said in a statement published on their website March 10.
Although the statement did not confirm the total number of casualties, The Associated Press reported that seven people, including an unborn baby and the gunman, died. The gunman took his own life after shooting the others dead.
While no motive for the attack has been determined, the tragic shooting is the latest in a string of shootings over several years, some committed by far-right extremists. In 2019, 27-year-old neo-Nazi, Stephan Balliet, opened fire at a synagogue, killing two people.
The following year, another self-proclaimed far-right extremist went on a shooting spree in Hanau, a town near Frankfurt, and killed 11 people.
David Semonian, U.S.-based spokesman for Jehovah Witnesses, told AP in an emailed statement that members “worldwide grieve for the victims of this traumatic event.”
“The conjugation elders in the local area are providing pastoral care for those affected by the event,” he wrote.
According to the BBC, the suspect, named only as Philipp F., 35, is a former member of the religious community, who had “ill-feelings.”
The March 9 deadly attack prompted an outpouring of condolences from government and religious officials, including German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
“My thoughts are with (the victims) and their families, as well as with the security forces, who have had a difficult mission,” Scholz said in a March 10 statement on Twitter. Hamburg mayor Peter Tschentscher also took to Twitter to express his condolences and said the reports of the attack were “shocking.”
In a statement published by the Diocese of Hamburg, Father Sascha-Philipp Geißler, vicar general of the Diocese of Hamburg, said the news of “this bloody crime in Hamburg-Alsterdorf is shocking and leaves me speechless.”
“My sympathy and prayers go especially to those killed and their relatives, the injured and the emergency services. My thoughts are with all those who are devastated in the face of this act, and with all those who are now helping others,” he said.
The diocese also published a prayer asking God to console those grieving the loss of their loved ones.
“God, tonight we are shaken, shocked. Tonight our thoughts do not rest,” the prayer stated.
“God, when words fail us at the cruelty, when our breath is taken away in shock, when our vision blurs with grief, you are still there and do not leave us alone. We entrust to you those whose lives ended today.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses are members of a religious movement, founded in the U.S. at the end of the 19th century. They identify as Christians, but their beliefs are different from other Christians in some ways. For instance, they teach that Jesus is the son of God but is not part of a Trinity.
There are about 8.7 million Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide, the movement stated in a 2022 report.