Rows of empty chairs are set up in front of a simple wooden lectern in a well-lit room on an industrial park.
After a horrific shooting on Thursday in another meeting hall in the city took seven lives, including an unborn child, the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Hamburg canceled all of their sessions.
Shortly after worshipers ended their service, the attack happened. According to Michael Tsifidaris, who speaks on behalf of the locals, police have informed them that they cannot completely rule out the potential of a “copycat” attack.
He wears a work suit and is well-groomed, but he appears worn out. He still appears to be really disturbed up. The incident claimed the lives of two of his companions.
He claims to have spent Thursday night in the police station and in the hospital visiting survivors. But he also offered consolation to family members as they awaited word of their loved ones in a hurriedly set up emergency center.
“It’s difficult to picture a group of people reading the Bible, singing, and praying together while spending an evening in a church. After their encounter, they spend a few minutes talking to one another. Suddenly, a scene of love turns into a scene of hate and death.”
The tragedy is made much more tragic by the fact that the murderer was a former Jehovah’s Witness living here.
In and around Hamburg, there are roughly 4,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses. The neighborhood is organized into smaller congregations, each with a Kingdom Hall—a gathering place—for meetings.
According to detectives looking into the mass shooting, the assailant parted ways with the Jehovah’s Witnesses on “not good” terms.
Mr. Tsifidaris claims to be unaware of the man’s motives for leaving, to not have known him personally, and to be reticent to bring up the subject.
Most Jehovah’s Witnesses “disassociate” or “cut off” those who leave the organization; this behavior is frequently referred to as “shunning”.
The author of an anonymous letter warning the attacker possessed a gun, was mentally ill, and harbored resentment toward religious organizations, including the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the police have learned.
He left the neighborhood two years ago, and now all of a sudden he’s back and acting contrary to all we stand for, claims Mr. Tsifidaris.
“What is known is that he harbored hatred towards the religious community because it is a community he is familiar with and was a part of. He was familiar with both the setup and the arrangements.”
The community is currently congregating online. Mr. Tsifidaris frequently discusses the consolation to be found in helping one another and refers to his fellow members as brothers and sisters. “We cry and we pray together.”
They give individuals who are still hospitalized with serious injuries top priority. He is sure that the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ belief that God forbids blood transfusions does not affect their ability to receive medical care.
He assures us that although they are still in danger, there is a good probability that most of them will survive.
The support of the bereaved and the traumatized is currently the main focus. He claims that no one is ever alone while grieving.
A city is in mourning and a community is in shock and anguish as a result of this tragedy. According to Mr. Tsifidaris, recovery will take years.