Sober response by religious and community leaders to bin Laden killing

By staff writers
3 May 2011

Despite scenes of jubilation from the USA following news of the death of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden yesterday, many religious and community leaders and commentators have reacted soberly.

ENInews reported that "Muslim, Christian and Jewish leaders greeted the news of the death ... with varying degrees of relief, regret and caution."

Reputed to be a key figure in the 11 September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington DC that killed nearly 3,000 people, bin Laden was killed by United States forces in Pakistan, US President Barack Obama announced on 1 May.

Several faith leaders quoted words they attributed to civil rights leader and Baptist pastor Dr Martin Luther King, Jr., "I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy."

"Joyfully celebrating the killing of a killer who joyfully celebrated killing carries an irony that I hope will not be lost on us. Are we learning anything, or simply spinning harder in the cycle of violence?" asked US 'emergent church' leader Brian McLaren, currently in Britain.

"The way Osama bin Laden died is difficult for me as an American opposed to the death penalty and committed to the courts as a space for the performance of justice," declared Hussein Rashid, a native New Yorker and Muslim commentator on ReligionDispatches.

He said: "[Bin Laden's] death does not heal the world, but allows the dirt in the wound to be washed away. Now we need to spend time healing, and it will be a job. The symbol is dead, what he symbolised should die as well."

Meanwhile, Andrea LeBlanc, from one group of 9/11 victims' relatives said in a Guardian article that she hopes for the restoration of the US to the path of justice, not war.

She writes: "There are not many things I know to be absolutely true, but one of them is that violence begets violence. I suppose bin Laden's death proves the point. I and my fellow members of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows want the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks brought to justice, but we believe justice is achieved in the courtroom, not on the battlefield."

The Rt Rev Alan Wilson, Anglican Bishop of Buckingham in the Diocese of Oxford, commented on his Facebook page: "Osama Bin Laden's death is a military success, but he was a human being better put on trial as a criminal than killed in a way that some will call martydom.

"We also have to note he was in Pakistan, and known to be so. The billions spent and hundreds of thousands killed in conventional war in Iraq, and even the fourth Afghan War, seem to have had nothing at all to do with his demise."

Birmingham Councillor and Respect Party leader Salma Yaqoob said: "Osama bin Laden was an evil man. He directed and encouraged the killing of thousands of innocent people from many faiths and backgrounds. He claimed to defend Muslims, but his actions simply brought devastation and misery to countless Muslims across the world."

"Bin Laden is dead, but the world is still governed by bin Ladens. People cheer because they thought they saw justice, but this was not justice delivered by victims. This was one killer killing another,” declared activist and journalist Allan Nairn on Democracy Now in the US.

He added: “I think we need an American uprising, if we’re to put a stop to [the] killing of innocent people. And we need an American Romero, someone like Archbishop Romero of Salvador.”

Father Brian Dawson from Havelock North, New Zealand, tweeted on US President Barack Obama's remark that "America can do whatever we set our mind to", adding the comment: "Imagine what it could do if it set it's mind on peace".

"[W]e can use our lives to model love and live out Jesus’ exhortation to be peacemakers. For if ever this world needed peacemakers, it is now," concluded an editorial on the conservative evangelical web-magazine Christian Today.

Sheldon C. Good, assistant editor and web editor of Mennonite Weekly Review in North America wrote: "As a follower of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, I cannot celebrate the violent death of any human being. I pray that our fear may cease, that God’s just peace can reign on earth as it is in heaven. And I heed Jesus’ words that we shall love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us."

[Ekk/3]

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