Photo of Candlelight vigil for Orlando Shooting by Dennis Chong

Candlelight vigil to mourn for the 49 killed at the Orlando shooting

About 700 individuals turned up at Hong Lim Park on Tuesday evening to participate in a candle light vigil organised to show solidarity with the victims' families and loved ones of the Orlando shooting.

On Sunday (12 June), a gunman entered Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida and carried out the deadliest shooting in US history. 49 was killed, with at least 53 injured and at least five still in "grave condition".

This vigil follows other similar candlelight vigils and memorial gatherings held yesterday in different cities and countries around the world. The vigil was pushed back a day because the permit for Hong Lim Park cannot be applied on the day itself.

Organiser for the event, Nicholas Lim had decided to organise the candlelight vigil as he felt that people needed a space to come forth to share their feelings with others.  Lim is also the founder of GLBT Voices, a popular fanpage that touches on difficulties faced by the gay community and sharing of aspiring stories by gays and their families.

Lim said, "It was an emotional response to the outpouring of shock and grief not just by my friends but the readers of GLBT Voices. I felt that people needed a space to come and just be with one another, and try to make sense of why this happened. A lot of people who came up to me after the event said it was cathartic."

Lim in his address to the crowd, said, "In Singapore we have absolutely no protection from any form of discrimination or even possible hate crimes committed in the future. But you know what, we, the LGBT community and our allies, we are used to discrimination. We are used to persecution and hatred. And we are still here. We are resilient. We won’t be cast aside. Look around you. Everyone here is a part of a family. We are your sons, your daughters, brothers and sisters, friends and co-workers.

Tonight we hope that from this ugly tragedy, people start to realise the consequences of hate. We hope that they realise just as they have the right to their beliefs, we have the right to lead our lives free of fear, prejudice and oppression. We hope that in the aftermath of this incident, governments and world leaders would come together and agree that this can no longer happen again. We should not lose another life to mindless hate. Because the murdered victims deserve better. The LGBT community deserve better. The human race deserves better."

At the end of his speech, Lim read out the names of all the 49 victims of the horrific shooting.

Pastor Miak Siew of Free Community Church, "spoke" through Lim as last minute registration for speakers has been disallowed by National Parks.

Pastor Siew "said", "This is the time we respond to hate, not with hate, but with love. Even though we are angry. Even though the tears are streaming down our faces. Even though we are afraid. We respond not with hate, but with fierce love. We would be bolder to love even the ones who hate us. We will not run back to hide back in our closets.

This is a time to love even more passionately, to love our families – no matter how hard, how difficult, no matter if they have accepted us or not, to love our friends, to love our enemies. Because only love can overcome hate."

heartshape candlelight
Photo by Zaihan Kariyani‎

Although it was originally planned to use actual candles for the vigil, but Lim was notified by the National Park yesterday that no open flame is allowed at the park. The participants improvised by using light-sticks and their mobile phones for the vigil and forming a heart with light-sticks on the field.

Apart from the symbolic 'lighting", songs are sung by the participants as part of the vigil.

One of the participant of the event, Garry Moss wrote on the Facebook event page, "Wanted to thank GLBT Voices and thank you Nicholas for organising this so quickly. Some of us in the community really needed this space and time to reflect and mourn, and the vigil gave us some comfort among the community. The strongest message taken away here is not to fight hatred with more hatred, but to fight it with overwhelming love."

Lim estimates that there are around 400 individuals who turned up for the vigil. however, participants and media gives a higher figure of about 700 participants.