The worst mass shooting in the United States occurred in Orlando, Florida early Sunday morning around 2:00 AM local time, leaving as far as 50 people dead and 53 injured.

According to US news sources, this criminal act has been tied to terrorism as the shooter reportedly called 911 during his rampage to declare his allegiance to ISIS. The tragedy, which has also been described by authorities as a hate crime against the LGBT community, has renewed vigorous debate on gun control laws as well global terrorism. But for the most part, the international community has responded with messages of compassion, sympathy and support to the traumatized people of Orlando, Florida.

US President Barack Obama and presidential candidates all weighed in with sympathetic messages. Pope Francis reacted in “horror” to the massacre. Queen Elizabeth of England released a statement of sympathy on Sunday afternoon, and the country’s Prime Minister David Cameron stated he was “horrified” when he heard about the tragedy. As the shooting occurred in a LGBT night club, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed “solidarity” with the LBGT community. Also joining the global chorus of world leaders were President Donald Tusk of the European Council, Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek of Turkey and Prime Minister Lars L Rasmussen of Denmark.

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) echoed the sentiments of other world leaders by expressing her sentiments in the official response from the Presidential Office of Republic of China.

The spokesman of the Office of President of the R.O.C., Alex Huang (黃重諺), said on Monday that “President Tsai is deeply concerned over the deadly terror attack in Orlando, Florida. Ms. Tsai has directed the Secretary General of the National Security Council, Joseph Wu (吳釗燮), to express our concern to the Director of American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Kin W. Moy (梅健華).” Mr. Huang added that “in addition to her condemnation of violent terrorism, Mr. Wu will also communicate President Tsai’s condolences to the U.S. government to mourn victims and their families.”

William Lai (賴清德), the mayor of Tainan, which is a sister city of Orlando, stated in a letter to Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer that “On behalf of the two million citizens of Tainan, Taiwan, I extend our deepest condolences to the victims and their families who lost loved ones in the terrorist attack on your city. We are shocked and saddened by these cruel acts of terrorism and condemn all violence. Orlando has been our Sister City since 1982, and we care deeply about the safety and well-being of your people. I now write to assure you that Tainan will stand with Orlando through this difficult time. Our thoughts and prayers are with you all. We wish that the deceased may rest in peace, that the bereaved may be comforted, and that wisdom, courage, and strength be given to us all as we stand together, ready to protect peace and human rights.”

Orlando, known as the tourism capital of the USA, has a special connection to Taiwan. Orlando became a Sister City of Tainan on June 24, 1982, and this longstanding relationship has been valued by the Mayors of both cities. A striking similarity can be seen as the Orlando Mayor lead his stunned community through this crisis, as did the Tainan City Mayor during the deadly earthquake of February 5, 2016.

(Feature photo of the Pulse nightclub in Orlando as police arrive on scene, by the Orlando Police Department.)


Tony Coolidge

Tony Coolidge is the founder of ATAYAL, a non-profit organization dedicated to connecting the indigenous peoples of Taiwan and beyond. Tony and ATAYAL produced Voices in the Clouds, a documentary about Tony's search for his Atayal aboriginal roots in Wulai, Taiwan, and hold an annual exchange program bringing Maori students from New Zealand to Taiwan. He is based in Tainan, Taiwan.