The raid of the bin Laden compound in Pakistan by the American Seals and his death which followed has brought about a tsunami of emotions around the world, from elation and celebrations in Washington DC by happy Americans to angry demonstrations in Pakistan by his unhappy supporters.
This raises a serious question in my mind as to whether justice was truly served, as President Obama proclaimed, or whether this is even significant at all in the long 1400 years of the suffering that people have endured (both in the Middle East and elsewhere) at the hands of the "Bin Ladens" of the centuries past.
Americans, of course, are jubilant because this major personality of our times who has been a thorn in our side for over 20 years and he is the primary culprit of the 9/11 attacks is no more. But are we finished with the issue of Muslim extremism? Is Bin Laden's death the end of our woes?
My answer is NO! We may be turning a new page as we put this criminal behind us, but the problem is far from being resolved. As we look at the conditions under which people in the Middle East have lived for the last 1400 years, we may understand better what the problem really is. Americans will need to acquire some of the long-suffering abilities of those who have been the continuous victims of this type of violence for over 14 centuries.
My immediate thought is that the killing of just one more terrorist will not bring an end to a culture cultivated over centuries. Bin Laden did not invent Jihad. He just followed in it's path and ideology.
Contrary to the way this is presented in the media, the problem is not a modern one. It has it's roots and conception in the 7th century and the first 100 years of the rise of Islam. Modern extremists merely draw their lessons from history and base their actions on behaviors of the past. Modern Americans have a lot to learn from the lessons of the past.
One major lesson to keep in mind is that it is not wise to rush to celebrate at this point. The death of one criminal is not the end of crime as a whole.
From a Christian perspective, of course, we need to find some direction and wisdom from Christ's life and teachings. Christ is the epitome of patience and non-violence. He rebuked Peter in the garden of Gesthemane when he drew his knife and cut the ear of the servant who had come to arrest Jesus. Jesus also disappointed those who expected Him to come with an army and weapons as an earthly King and who were perplexed to see Him accept suffering and death. They missed His point that His weapons are spiritual ones while humility and long-suffering is the way of defeating the arrogant Satan. He had to remind Pilate that His Kingdom is not of this world.
Likewise, the early Christians in the face of persecution and violence did not respond in kind, but remained steadfast in the Lord who showed His power through the Resurrection. To everyone's surprise the very force of evil that put them down for three centuries (the Roman Empire) bowed it's knee (in the 4th century) to the very Faith they had been persecuting. The power of Christ cannot be underestimated. If there is something to learn from this today is that God is in control, in the end, even when we humans lose our hope.
We do need to turn to God for the modern problem of violence and evil extremism. As we ask for His mercy, we must trust that He is able to protect us from the powers of this world. Ultimately His Kingdom should be our only goal; "Seek first the Kingdom of God and all other things will be added to you."
In conclusion, bin Laden's death is significant to us as Christians in as much as he is one among the thousands who lived violently and died violently, his life being in direct contrast to everything Christ taught. He is significant to us in as much as the ideology and religious tradition he followed stand in opposition to the humility, love and peace which Christ taught and offered the world.
As Christians we must not fall into the trap of our immediate emotions and share in the evil which bin Laden served, but rather continue to condemn evil and declare the love of God as we experience it through Jesus Christ.