Amid reports that those killed at an Oregon college on Thursday were targeted because of their Christian faith, Rev. Franklin Graham warned that persecution of believers is not just pervasive in the Middle East, but in our own country as well.
"Persecution and targeting of Christians isn't just in Iran or the Middle East, it's right here in America," Graham, who is the president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan's Purse, wrote in a Facebook post. "The bold souls at Umpqua Community College who stood up to say they were followers of Jesus Christ were heinously gunned down with no mercy. Jesus said, 'If they hate you, remember they hated me before they hated you.' (John 15:18)."
Yesterday, 26-year-old Chris Harper Mercer went on a bloody shooting rampage at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, killing 10 and wounding seven others.
Stacy Boylan, the father of Anastasia Boylan, 18, who was shot in the back by a bullet that traveled down her spine, recounted the horrific ordeal to her father before she went into surgery, CNN reported.
Mercer, who was heavily armed, wore body armor and had a large amount of ammunition, entered her classroom firing his weapon. Before shooting the professor teaching the class he declared: "I've been waiting to do this for years."
After everyone dropped to the ground, the gunman reloaded his handgun and demanded everyone stand up. Then, he asked if they were Christians.
"And they would stand up and he said, 'Good, because you're a Christian, you're going to see God in just about one second,'" Boylan said his daughter told him. "And then he shot and killed them."
His daughter said after she was shot she played dead to survive.
The killer reportedly died after exchanging gunfire with two police officers who confronted him.
Speaking The New York Times, a law enforcement officer noted that Mercer "appeared to be an angry young man who was very filled with hate."
Mercer's neighbors in Winchester, Oregon, and Torrance, California, where he lived with his mother, Laurel Harper, added that he appeared to be a reclusive, fragile young man.
"He always seemed anxious," said Rosario Lucumi, 51, who rode the same bus in Torrance with Mercer when she went to work. "He always had earphones in, listening to music."
She said Mercer and his mother lived in a small one-bedroom apartment in Torrance for less than a year and "they were always together."
Bryan Clay, 18, told the Times that he once asked Mercer why he wore "a military get-up" every day and "he kind of just didn't want of talk about it" and changed the subject.
"He didn't say anything about himself," said Clay.
Speaking at a news conference on Thursday, Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin said he would not speak the gunman's name.
"Let me be very clear, I will not name the shooter," he said. "I will not give him the credit he probably sought prior to this horrific and cowardly act."
He also asked reporters "not to glorify and create sensationalism for him. He in no way deserves it."
Meanwhile, Graham is encouraging Christians to unite in prayer for those affected by the tragedy.
"My prayers are for the families of those who have been killed and all those wounded in the tragic shooting today in Roseburg, Oregon," he wrote on Thursday. "We don't know all the facts, but we know that one man is responsible for this carnage. Join me in praying for this devastated community and share this with others who will pray."