Saturday, May 21, 2011

Religious reactions to bin Laden killing

Bin Laden was killed on May 2nd. We saw what Jessica Dovey blogged. So what did religious leaders have to say?  Here's a selection, in no particular order.

Church of England 

Initially Lambeth Palace refused to comment on the death of Bin Laden but, when asked at a press conference what he thought of the killing, The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams replied: "I think the killing of an unarmed man is always going to leave a very uncomfortable feeling; it doesn't look as if justice is seen to be done.

"I don't know the full details any more than anyone else. I think it's also true that different versions of events have not done a great deal to help.

"In such circumstances, when we are faced with someone who was manifestly a war criminal in terms of the atrocities inflicted, it is important that justice is seen to be done." 

Note sure of the date, probably 4th May. Earlier, the archbishop of York gave a measured response to the dramatic events in Pakistan, saying people should not celebrate Bin Laden's death and that the terror chief was "evil but not Satan".

The Vatican

Vatican press chief Fr Federico Lombardi issued a statement on 2nd May. He pointed out the role Bin Laden had played in the promotion of “division and hatred between people," but continued "Faced with the death of a man, a Christian never rejoices but reflects on the serious responsibility of each and every one of us before God and before man, and hopes and commits himself so that no event be an opportunity for further growth of hatred, but for peace."

A Quaker comment

"William Penn said 'A good end cannot sanctify evil means, nor must we ever do evil that good may come of it'.  Was the summary execution an evil means to bring about a good end?  An opportunity to demonstrate to the world what separates those who value life from the terrorist has been lost."

The following reactions all come from the USA, between 2nd and 9th May

New York: Fr Stephen Mimnaugh at Manhattan’s St Francis of Assisi church (Roman Catholic)

"Justice may have been served, but we Catholics never rejoice in the death of a human being."  He went on to cite the next comment from James Martin.

It’s relevant to note that Fr Stephen Mimnaugh is successor to Mychal F. Judge, Chaplain of the Fire Department of New York, and the first recorded victim of the September 11, 2001 attack.  He was a Roman Catholic priest of the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor.

James Martin, an Amercan Jesuit priest

He wrote in America, a weekly Catholic magazine, that "no matter how monstrous" a person is, "as a Christian, I am asked to pray for him and, at some point, forgive him."

Brook Baptist Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The Rev David Howard

The Rev David Howard shouted his approval from outside his church. A prominent sign publicising the sermon Howard planned proclaimed: "Osama bin Laden, Satan and the Final Victory of Jesus".

The Rev Howard said : "We should pray for bad people, evil people, that when we pray to God he will change their lives. But if he won’t change their lives, especially those who have a lot of power to hurt a lot of people, you pray for their end because they’re causing so much pain. You pray somehow God will take them out. The Bible is very clear that God is in control and every person in power is because God put them there.

"He can put them there, he can keep them there or he can take them out. That’s his prerogative."

Imam Hassan al-Qazwini at the Islamic Centre of America in the Detroit, one of American’s largest mosques

Imam Hassan al-Qazwini told worshippers. : "There is no doubt that this man was a thug, he was a murderer," Imam Hassan al-Qazwini told worshippers. "His hands were stained by the blood of thousands of innocent people — Muslims and non-Muslims alike."   Delivering his sermon in a hall filled to capacity, he said the Koran is clear that someone who kills one innocent person "is doomed to hell forever." And he was incensed that bin Laden "committed atrocities against innocent people ... while he was calling ‘Allahu akbar’, or ‘God is great’."

Armitage Baptist Church in Chicago, Pastor Charles Lyons 

Pastor Lyons told his congregation that sometimes "evil must be stopped."

"We do not rejoice in the death of the man named Osama bin Laden (but)... truth provides a platform for justice."

Church member Angelia Parker said bin Laden’s death should have been a time for contemplation, not cheering in the streets. "I think that was kind of weird," she said. "It was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ We are celebrating this person’s death? We didn’t celebrate in the streets when Saddam Hussein was killed."

The Rev Bill Kelly, priest at Saint Mary of the Assumption in Dedham, near Boston (not sure of denomination, Roman Catholic at a guess)

The Rev Kelly said he was taken aback because he detected bloodlust. But he added that the emotional reaction is understandable.

Congregation Neve Shalom, a Conservative Jewish synagogue in Metuchen, New Jersey, Rabbi Gerald Zelizer

Rabbi Zelizer said that according to the Talmud, if someone is trying to kill you, "you are obligated - not permitted - to kill that person before he kills you."

"But that obligation does not carry with it at all the privilege of rejoicing."

As services ended, a heated debate over how to respond broke out. Kathryn Zahler said that taking delight in anyone’s death feels un-Jewish. But Mindy Epstein disagreed. "I don’t care if that makes me a non-Jew or not," she said. "Put it on pay-for-view for the (September 11) victims."

Church of England : The Guardian 5th May
Vatican :  Catholic News Service
Quaker comment from The Friend website
USA reactions:  Irish Examiner 10th May 

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