A retired American Methodist minister has set himself on fire in a desperate and fatal attempt to highlight homophobia, racism and other inequalities in the world.
On June 23, Reverend Charles Moore, 79, drove to his home town of Grand Saline in Texas. He parked his car outside a shopping centre, doused himself in petrol and set it on fire.
Locals rushed to aid the screaming man but efforts to save him were in vain. Moore died in hospital that night.
According to The people of The United Methodist Church website, he had written various notes leading up to the suicide in which he expressed his frustration over his church’s stance towards homosexuality, the death penalty and racism.
Dallas News reported that in one note, he wrote: “I would much prefer to go on living and enjoy my beloved wife and grandchildren and others, but I have come to believe that only my self-immolation will get the attention of anybody and perhaps inspire some to higher service.”
In a final suicide note, Moore railed against the racism in his home town. His family had no inkling of his plans.
Moore equated his suicide with the ultimate sacrifices made by Buddhist monks during the Vietnam War and Jesus in the Bible, and saw it as a “necessary deed”.
While some have called him a martyr, others have questioned his sanity for what was described as “a final act of protest against social injustice.”
During his time as a pastor, Moore hosted meetings for the group Parents, Friends and Families of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) at his church and appointed openly gay members to leadership positions.
In 1995, he made headlines when he went on a 15 day hunger strike to protest the United Methodist Church’s discriminatory policies on gays and lesbians.
Speaking about the impact of Moore’s suicide on his devastated wife and family, his son-in-law Bill Renfro, told Dallas News: “He did this selfless act, this sacrifice for others, but he also did not think thoroughly through the consequences of the act.”
He added: “I wish I could have sat down and pointed out, ‘Charles, look at what your life has meant to the world. Look at what it’s meant to individuals. You’ve changed their lives.’”