Chris Herlinger

"The escalation of gun violence compels us to call for an end to the manufacture and easy distribution of such instruments of destruction," said the Rev. Robert Edgar, the general secretary of the US National Council of Churches after the killings on 16 April. "A faith that expresses compassion for all God's children is opposed to violence in all forms."

In Geneva, World Council of Churches general secretary, the Rev. Samuel Kobia, said: "In deference to those who have died and with concern for the future, we all must ask why such killings happen so easily. Why are these incidents repeated as if there are no remedies?"

Kobia, a Methodist from Kenya whose own country has seen many shootings due to the prevalence of firearms, said: "We are all Virginians in our sympathy, but many people around the world are also Virginians in their vulnerability to the misuse of unregulated guns."

Police on 17 April named the gunman as Cho Seung-hui, a 23-year-old student from South Korea, agencies reported.

The general secretary of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, the Rev. Setri Nyomi said: "We pray to God that the families, friends and colleagues of the victims will some day find healing, even as we understand this horrendous act of incomprehensible violence will never leave their consciousness."

Nyomi added: "We pray also for the United States of America and all nations as they struggle to overcome the temptation to rely on arms and as they work to find true security for all their peoples."

Edgar noted that numerous US faith leaders "have spoken up continually about the epidemic of gun violence in our country. Despite repeated calls from faith and community leaders to Congress and presidents nothing ever seems to get done to stem the tide."

He reiterated an earlier call he and other religious leaders made about the need for an end to gun violence in the United States. Edgar said: "It is increasingly evident that guns, rather than providing the security people seek and rightfully deserve, only add further to our sense of unease and danger."

In separate pastoral messages, the Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal (Anglican) Church, said US faith communities were in mourning over the incident.

Mark Hanson, the presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, who is also the president of the Lutheran World Federation, quoted from Psalm 130: "Out of the depths, I cry to you, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice!"

ENI Daily News Service.