“Osama bin Laden is dead” reads the large banner that is currently splashed across the top of the Des Moines Register website. Those same words were likely on the front page of every newspaper across the world today. The news could not be avoided after it broke Sunday evening that the U.S. found and killed Osama bin Laden, the al-qaeda leader and terrorist behind the September 11, 2001 attacks, which were the worst on American soil, as well as many other civilian attacks around the world.
In his presidential address to the American people Sunday evening, Barack Obama announced that he had been working with the CIA to find bin Laden and received intelligence in the past week to his location in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Bin Laden was shot in the head by U.S. Navy Seals and was buried at sea.
Following the presidential address, television networks and videos on the Internet panned the crowds cheering and celebrating bin Laden’s death, claiming victory for the American people. “God bless America” were Obama’s words and those of many who beamed in pride for our country’s freedom.
Don’t get me wrong, the capture and killing of bin Laden is a step in the right direction to dismantling al-qaida and ending the war on terror, but is it really worth dancing in the streets and cheering victoriously over his death?
In Des Moines, former representative and Democratic candidate for governor Ed Fallon said that no human death, even that of bin Laden, should cause celebration.
Assistant men’s basketball coach at Iowa State Matt Abdelmassih said “It’s a thrill, a day to rejoice… I know you’re not supposed to say those words. But the person who got killed was a terrible human being. It’s a great feeling, knowing the guy is not around.’’
The Vatican even chimed in their response. "...In the face of a man's death, a Christian never rejoices, but reflects on the serious responsibilites of each person before God and before men, and hopes and works so that every event may be the occasion for further growth of peace and not of hatred.
When it comes to loving our neighbor, the Bible states in Proverbs 24:17,"Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice" and in Ezekiel 33:11,“As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.”
What is the loving and just way to respond in this situation? Is it okay to be happy that bin Laden is no longer a threat, but not rejoicing in his death? And even though he is dead, it doesn’t mean there is any less threat of al-qaeda responding with more attacks. If anything, the response of the American people could cause more anger. People are beginning to ask and wonder what this now means for the future of al-Qaida and the United States.
I am beginning to wonder what this means for our spiritual lives. If we truly are about taking care of our neighbor, loving our enemy and “doing justice and loving mercy” are we bless those who curse us in this situation?
What do you think is the just way to respond?