In a shocking incident at Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church in Houston, a woman armed with a rifle opened fire inside the church premises, causing panic and fear among those present. The incident occurred on a Sunday afternoon, just as the church was transitioning between its main service and the Spanish language service. The assailant, a woman in her early 30s dressed in a trenchcoat, was quickly neutralized by off-duty law enforcement officers present at the scene before she could inflict more harm. Tragically, the encounter resulted in the woman’s death and left two individuals injured: a 57-year-old man who was shot in the hip and a young boy, about 5 years old, who was critically wounded. The circumstances under which the child was shot, whether by the assailant or in the crossfire, were not immediately clear.
The woman had reportedly entered the church’s foyer, threatening that she had a bomb and discharged “some type of substance” on the ground, although no explosives or harmful substances were found upon investigation. The rifle used in the attack had “Free Palestine” written on it, adding a layer of complexity to the motive behind the shooting. Identified as Genesse Ivonne Moreno, the shooter was a transgender individual with a history of prior arrests under the name Jeffery Escalante, involving charges ranging from assault to theft and unlawful weapon possession.
The swift response by the off-duty officers, one from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and another Houston Police officer, was credited with preventing a potentially more devastating outcome. Both officers will be placed on administrative leave pending an investigation into the incident. Pastor Joel Osteen expressed devastation over the events, emphasizing prayers for the injured and the families affected by this act of violence.
This tragic event has left the community and attendees of Lakewood Church in shock, prompting a reevaluation of security measures and the need for vigilance in places of worship. It also underscores the unpredictable nature of such attacks and the importance of quick, coordinated responses by law enforcement to protect public safety.
This incident is a grim reminder of the broader issue of rising anti-Christian hate crimes, not only in the United States but also in Canada. Recent statistics and reports shed light on this worrying trend, revealing a significant increase in incidents targeting Christian communities.
In Canada, there has been a notable spike in anti-Catholic hate crimes. The Catholic Civil Rights League highlighted a staggering 260% increase in such incidents from 2020 to 2021, attributed in part to attacks on Catholic churches, including deliberate arsons. This rise in hate crimes against Catholics was significantly higher than the increase in crimes targeting other religious groups, with crimes against Muslims and Jews also rising but not at the same rate. The total number of hate crimes against Catholics jumped from 43 in 2020 to 155 in 2021, indicating a growing trend of intolerance towards this community.
In the United States, the FBI’s 2021 hate crime statistics reflect a continued concern over hate crimes based on religion, among other biases. The report indicated that there were 10,530 single-bias incidents, involving 12,822 victims. Of these, a portion was targeted because of their religious beliefs, showcasing the national scope of religious-based intolerance. Hate crimes against persons accounted for the majority of these offenses, highlighting the direct impact on individuals’ safety and well-being.
The data from both countries reveal a concerning trend of increasing hostility towards religious groups, with Christians being a significant target. This rise in anti-Christian hate crimes calls for a unified response from communities, law enforcement, and policymakers to address and counteract this trend effectively. It underscores the importance of advocacy, awareness, and support for victims, as well as the need for robust measures to prevent such crimes and ensure the safety and freedom of religious expression for all individuals, regardless of their faith.