STATEMENT: Pax Christi USA official statement on the death of Osama bin Laden

The killing of Osama bin Laden is an occasion for deep reflection. It must become a turning point in our nation’s nearly decade-long wars in response to the tragedy of 9/11.  As people of faith, and as Catholics who, only days ago, celebrated Christ’s victory over condemnation, torture and death, we pause in this moment in a posture of prayer and repentance. As Christians we are troubled by the displays of celebration and call upon all people of good will to pause and reflect rather than rejoice and exult. We pray for the victims of that terrible day in September: for their families and loved ones, whose lives were changed forever; we pray for the first responders whose sacrifice and heroism inspired a shocked and grieving nation and who laid down their lives in an effort to save others; and for the countless volunteers who spent weeks amidst the rubble, dust and death at Ground Zero and who continue to suffer serious health effects today. However, we also mourn our nation’s misguided response to the events of 9/11, the carnage and mayhem unleashed, the distortion of our deepest values, the abandonment of our highest principles and ultimate subversion of our national character. And so our prayers extend beyond those victims of September 11th and focus also on the hundreds of thousands of innocent lives lost inAfghanistan,Iraq,Pakistan and across the globe as a direct result of our response.

The spiral of violence of which Pax Christi warned in September 2001 has sadly remained unbroken. The killing of bin Laden becomes one more waypoint in a quest for vengeance that will, as all acts of violence do, lead to ever more violence and death. The cycle must be broken. To do so will take much courage and sustained effort. Our prayers for the victims, both of bin Laden’s violence and our militarized response, must give way to true repentance—a turning away from violence as a path to national redemption.  The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. reminds us, “The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it… Through violence you murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate… Returning violence for violence multiples violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

For nearly a decade our national narrative has been driven by the Global War on Terror unleashed by the events initiated by bin Laden. In a tragic historical confluence, the violence visited upon us that day was perfectly mirrored by the Bush Administration’s response to it. Today, any reflection on the U.S.’s War on Terror cannot escape the historical judgment that mass arrests and indefinite detention, torture, rendition, indiscriminant bombing, hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths, tens of thousands of U.S. casualties and domestic political demonization and polarization have perversely actualized bin Laden’s highest and most evil aspirations. Sadly, the Obama Administration’s continuation of so many of the Bush-era policies has forestalled any such deep reexamination of our nation’s response to 9/11. For all this we also mourn. But our mourning will be hollow if not coupled with a deep repentance. The time has come to turn the page on this narrative and begin a new story. The time has come to bring our wars to an end. The time has come to write a new narrative, one based on hope and love and not on fear and vengeance. The time has come to bring peace.

Pax Christi USA remains committed to ending the war in Afghanistan and bringing home all our troops. Let the passing of bin Laden usher in a new moment of clarity and wisdom that the events of the last decade have so obscured. Like nearly every other al-Qaeda leader captured or killed since 9/11, bin Laden was ultimately done in—not by the invasion and occupation of Iraq, and not the 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan—but by the painstaking and meticulous application of the tools of criminal investigation. As Pax Christi stated ten years ago, the events of 9/11 were a crime against humanity—not an act of war. And so today we also mourn the loss of opportunity that was squandered in the wake of 9/11 that could have pursued the 9/11 criminals without casting the whole world into tumult and war, without unleashing the racism and xenophobia that continue to tear apart communities across the U.S. today.

The costs of our war-based narrative continue to climb even as we mark the demise of the man whose unspeakable violence prompted that response. More than $2 trillion has been spent in pursuit of that war narrative over the past decade. Many new millionaires have been made through the tripling of defense spending since the “war” began and the huge profits it has generated for some. In the meantime, poverty rates have climbed to a record-setting 14.3 percent of Americans in 2009, with one in four black and Latino families living below the poverty line and America’s child poverty rate—one in five kids—now the second worst among rich nations, behind Mexico. We have the world’s most expensive health care system, and yet in 2009 infant mortality in the U.S. was higher than in 29 other countries and the worst among rich nations. The time has come to take decisive steps away from the permanent war economy that has siphoned off so much of our nation’s resources. Such spending over the past decade is what Vatican II succinctly decried as “a genuine theft from the poor.”

Bin Laden may be dead. Bush, Rove, Cheney and Rumsfeld may be gone. But the perfect storm created by their combined hatred, fear and reliance on mass violence continues to exact a deadly toll today. The UN reports that 2011 has been the deadliest year yet for civilians in Afghanistan. This legacy of death cannot be undone by a single execution of one individual in an isolated compound in Pakistan.

As followers of the nonviolent Jesus, we are called to a different journey. Our struggle is to be worthy of the label “Christian” and as such compels us to reject violence and hatred, to eschew celebrations of violent “victories” and to deepen our commitment to “love our enemies” and build a world based on solidarity and the common good. In their statement on the death of Osama bin Laden, the Vatican reaffirms this call: “In the face of a man’s death, a Christian never rejoices, but reflects on the serious responsibilities of each person before God and before men, and hopes and works so that every event may be the occasion for the further growth of peace and not of hatred.”

That peace will best be served by ending the decade-old war inAfghanistanand bringing allU.S.troops and private military contractors home. To this end, Pax Christi USA joins its voice with those in the U.S. Senate calling on President Obama to set a concrete withdrawal date for allU.S.forces to leaveAfghanistan. As Pax Christi USA Bishop President Gabino Zavala stated in September 2010: “I say again, the war must be brought to an end, and just as in Iraq, a timetable and date certain must be established for our withdrawal.” This must be our resolve. In contrast to the violent legacy of bin Laden’s life, let this become the concrete outcome of his death.

22 responses to “STATEMENT: Pax Christi USA official statement on the death of Osama bin Laden

  1. Pingback: Catholic Peace Movement « Pax Christi Florida

  2. Diane Krantz

    I have been mesmerized by the news accounts of bin Ladan’s death but also deeply disturbed. Pax Christi’s official statement seems right on target. I have wondered since 9/11 if our country has taken giant steps towards becoming a third world nation in terms of morality rather than economy. Certainly our lack of care for the most vulnerable among us, our sense of self-righteousnes in the face of doing moral evil, and our disregard for the negative impact of our national policies not only on our own citizens but on our sisters and brothers around the globe marks us as deeply flawed. I have been deeply disappointed by President Obama’s tendency to guard the status quo rather than making risky but morally imperative decisions, but I also feel the Democrats in Congress, who over the past two years had the power to begin making real change in how business was done in Washington, communicated clearly their own reluctance to act morally rather than politically safely. What percent of these people supported the president when he did try to act for social justice?

  3. Thomas Fenlon

    Thank you for this statement.
    I have not yet read anything from anyone questioning this unseemly display of vengeance and joy at the death of a human.

  4. Thank you for bringing an element of peace and meditation to this sea of vengence and sophomoric flag-waving in which we find ourselves. The execution of Bin Laden is similar in principle to those carried out in many of our US states, if we postulate that he had already been tried by the court of world leaders, or was engaged in a war. For those who reject both war and execution, however, your comments and the lives of Gandhi and Dr. King remind us that violence only generates more violence.

  5. Mary Kaye Nealen

    When I saw the banner headlines about bin Ladan’s death, a deep sadness was among mixed feelings – sadness that we exult in a death and an act of retalation. I asked a university student, an Army reservist who has served twice in Iraq, about her thoughts, she said “I am not sure what I think. But I am concerned about the troops who are still over there.” I replied, “I am not sure either. But, even though bin Ladan committed evil acts that harmed many, he was first of all created by God and beloved by God. It is very easy to forget this when we consider him our enemy.”

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  7. Good pax christi reflection and writing. Your line that killing the hater doesn’t kill the hate but increases it should – were we more authentically christian – be heard from every pulpit. Thanks, jim kelly

  8. Good pax christi reflection and writing. Your line that killing the hater doesn’t kill the hate but increases it should – were we more authentically christian – be heard from every pulpit. Thanks, jim kelly

  9. Leann Gratz

    I am truly grateful that Pax Christi has put into words what I thought the moment I heard of the demise of Osama Bin Ladin. As evil does, more evil of terror will crop up to retaliate this man’s death, and the violence goes on and on. It is difficult in this day and age to follow Christ and to abide by God’s way of loving all. And I realize taking this view may be a hard pill to swallow. I have already been chastized by friends and family for being deeply disturbed by this whole event. Truly we are a nation struggling. The Way is not always the most popular, but let us continue our journey of peace rather than unrest, love rather than hate and unity rather than disunity, and may all humanity rest in the hands of our God. Peace and all good.

  10. Rev. Paul Bernadicou S.J.

    Thank you for your very sober yet inspiring words! Let this be the end of our military interventions after the devastation wrought to so many innocent people in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
    May enlightened diplomacy, United Nations agreements, and wisely dispersed development funds be our American way of righting wrong in the future.

  11. Like another commentator, I was also mesmerized by the news of Bin Laden’s death. I always thought that he will end up being killed by his own people, instead of by our soldiers. Even though Bin Laden committed so many evil acts in his own country, with his own people, around the world and in the United States we have to realize that we are all created by God. I pray that we understand this not only as Christians, but also for our own humanity. I remember Gandhi’s efforts to convince his people that vengeance is not the way to peace, all the contrary, ” an eye for an eye” will leave everyone blind, in other words, we lose our own humanity. Many people’s lives changed on 9/11. Mothers, fathers,husbands, wives, sons, daughters, grandchildren lost their love ones on that day. It is difficult to recover from an experience like that. But it is even harder if we end losing our own humanity in the process.

  12. Thank you for this reflection. Since hearing of bin Laden’s killing, I wonder if it would be possible to bring home ALL troops who are fighting in other lands. Let us all “rest in peace.” In addition I suggest we pray for Osama bin Laden’s family. They too now grieve the death of a loved one.

  13. Thank you for your beautiful reflection on what the death of bin Laden should mean to all of us; he was a father, a husband, a grandfather and a family member of countless people. We do no condone his evil deeds but we must pray for eternal peace for him and keep in our hearts and prayers all those who have suffered at his hand.
    I am proud to have an organization in MY church speak so strongly for peace and justice as true followers of Jesus. May God bless you for spreading that peace and justice.
    Celine

  14. Nancy Davis

    I am ashamed that humankind has not found more rationale and humane ways of dealing with differences. Globally we know Al Queda exemplifies inability to accept different ways of being; they are only one among many who use terror to control. And we, the USA, claim sophistication in how we treat and accept others. When all is said and done we murder just everyone else; we bully; we overpower; we dominate. What makes us any different than any other country? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Just ask bin Laden’s family.

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  18. These are noble ideas and i admire the courage but distrust their avoidance of certain truths.

    I want to think human beings are capable of redemption, forgiveness and grace. The entire sum of human history clearly tells us that some are not capable of forgiveness and grace. Love and prayer would not have stopped Hitler, Stalin, Napoleon, Pol Pot, Amin from murdering millions for their own selfish desires, nor would it have stopped Bin Laden. Bin Laden made his choices, a nation devoted to protecting life must make their choices in response to his choices. I’m glad I live in a country that did, that’s is why I celebrate the news and feel no need to apologize.

    Those who feel we should primarily be feelng remorse, I’m reminded of the Jews that did nothing but hold hands and pray as they walked into the Nazi’s gas chambers.

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  20. Hazel Naughton

    Chris Cummins’s logic is at first glance persuasive, but here too certain truths are avoided. Pax Christi’s statement is not primarily asking us to consider the personal salvation of these evil doers. That is up to God. This statement is saying that by taking revenge we are perpetuating and multiplying the violence. That we should avoid at all costs. Those of us who believe in a God of love and goodness plead with those who have been so cruelly hurt that they instinctly turn to revenge, to reconsideer their actions. The killing of Bin Laden will never bring closure. It will only bring more and more violence in men’s hearts and then in their actions. The spiral continues. I pray God we can stop it.

  21. John Sullivan

    I agree with the spirit of the statement, but it contains a very important error: the wars are not in response to 9-11. The invasion of Iraq had absolutely nothing to do with 9-11. NOTHING! Even George W. Bush was forced to admit that. Saddam Hussein was antagonistic to Al Qaeda. There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. There was no Iraqi terrorist attack on the U.S. It was all a lie, a false pretext for war. The real cause of the American invasion of Iraq was OIL.

    Afghanistan also had NOTHING to do with 9-11. Pakistan had NOTHING to do with 9-11. All these wars would have happened anyway. Terrorism is not the issue, it is only a pretext. The real issue is OIL. The war in Afghanistan is about the proposed oil pipeline across Afghanistan and Pakistan to the Indian Ocean. Few Americans know this because Americans are very heavily propagandized. The U.S. media do not talk about this.

    That is why the death of Osama bin Laden will make no difference, because he was never anything but a phony pretext to cover up Western plunder of Middle Eastern Oil. He was a bogeyman intended to distract the public from the ugly truth. We still don’t know who did 9-11. It has never been proved that bin Laden had anything to do with it. Islamic terrorism is retail when compared with the wholesale terror practiced by Americans. The weapons of mass destruction are in the U.S.A.

    When I hear propaganda I feel the need to expose it, even if it comes from a well-intentioned source like Pax Christi. There will be no end to wars until people learn to detect propaganda.

  22. RiverTroll

    ” Pacifism is objectively pro-fascist. This is elementary common sense. If you hamper the war effort of one side, you automatically help out that of the other. Nor is there any real way of remaining outside such a war as the present one. In practice, ‘he that is not with me is against me. ” George Orwell