May 2, 2011

Osama bin Laden’s Death: A Time to Reflect, Not Celebrate.

No, I am not celebrating tonight. I am waiting…

“Do not rejoice when your enemies fall, and do not let your heart be glad when they stumble.” ~ Proverbs 24:17.

“The Bible also says that you should love your enemy as yourself, and that vengeance is the Lord’s alone.”


What initially seemed inevitable in the wake of the September 11 terrorist bombings and gradually came to look like an exercise in futility has finally come to pass.

Osama bin Laden, leader of al Qaeda, has been killed.

He was a terrorist and the epitome of evil to millions.

To many others, he was a freedom fighter.

The people who saw him as a soldier of God will tonight call him a martyr, while those who still live with the horror of the attacks on the World Trade Centers will take relief at justice finally served.

Regardless of perspective, this is neither a time to celebrate or mourn.

This is a time to reflect on a near decade of fear and violence. It should be a time to step back and say “never again.”

The news that United States forces had finally caught up with the mastermind behind the infamous 2001 attacks, as well as many others, comes to most as a surprise. The reaction has been varied. From sighs of relief, to celebrations, to outrage, bin Laden is as polarizing in his end as he was in life.

Perhaps the hardest images for me to watch right now are those of revelers in front of the White House. It is troubling not because I cannot identify with what they are feeling. Until the day I die, I will never forget the scenes of terror barely a decade ago. I remember well my own anger and utter sadness. What strikes me though is that these images recall for me similar sights of people celebrating in the Middle East as the Towers came down. Were we not all outraged at those pictures?

Do not get me wrong, I believe that justice and karma have been served.

Osama bin Laden died as violently as he lived. Part of me wants to shout out in relief. But I cannot help but think that this is not the time for such behavior. The death of a man, any man, is not something to celebrate. Regardless of how or why the end came, a death should cause us to stop and reflect on the life that was lived. Bin Laden was an angry man, whose hatred so overflowed his earthly vessel that it continues to sweep up lives around the world in a torrent of violence and death. His beliefs and rhetoric were not born over night. They were the products of decades, no centuries, of misunderstandings, misdeeds, and misconceptions by forces bigger than him. Tonight, the man may be dead, but the anger and fear that empowered his cause continue to thrive. This is the fight that lays ahead for us all.

Before any of us raises a shout in celebration of bin Laden’s end, we should perhaps stop and raise the penultimate question. What now?

It is time for the whole world to take stock of what it has learned from this terrifying and deadly game of cat and mouse that has played out globally over this last decade. The loss of life, down to the Osama’s own death, has been staggering. When will it end?

No, I am not celebrating tonight. I am waiting for the day when men no longer feel the need to kill or be killed for the sake of righteousness or hatred. On that day, I will party with the best of them. Tonight and in the days ahead, I will be praying and working for that moment.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
– Prayer of St. Francis

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