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Responding to bin Laden's Death: Buddhists, Catholics, Evangelicals and More

There's been a fair amount of reporting on the celebrations that followed immediately after news of Osama Bin Laden's death, with people swarming Times Square and flocking to the White House to cheer and dance and start a party.

But members of various religious communities have expressed concern over jubilation in the wake of any death, even that of a sworn enemy, even that of the terrorist pitted against the United States.

The New York Times blog reports on Buddhists who are "confused" about how to respond:

It was not an easy day to be a New Yorker who practices Buddhism, said Ethan Nichtern, 32, who is director of a Buddhism teaching center in the East Village called the Interdependence Project. "My initial reaction is like everyone else's — this is a good thing," he said about the killing of Osama bin Laden. "But Buddhism says there is no monster that exists on his own, without cause. And that every living thing is sacred, including monsters. So I would chalk this up as one of the most intensely confusing moments for Buddhists so far in the 21st century."

That was a common sentiment among Buddhists interviewed yesterday in Manhattan, several of whom said that the general jubilation was understandable, but misplaced.

"This should not be a joyous occasion, " said Linas Vytuvis, vice president of the Kagyu Dzamling Kunchab Center, a Tibetan Buddhist center on Columbus Ave. "There is no way of hurting or killing someone without creating a karmic come-back. You may believe that killing a man who is intent on killing others is a necessary act, as I believe it was in this case. But you cannot escape the karmic effects of the act itself," he added, referring to the principle in Buddhism and Hinduism that says, basically, that all human action creates consequences for the person who carries it out.

The Christian response includes a recognition that all of us are complicit in the sinfulness of the world, although we don't see karma as the answer.

The Vatican issued this statement:

Osama bin Laden, as we all know, bore the most serious responsibility for spreading divisions and hatred among populations, causing the deaths of innumerable people, and manipulating religions for this purpose.

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.

Various articles on Christianity Today's website reflect a more conflicted Christian response. Gideon Struass writes:

I believe it is necessary for Christians to pause, and to consider the death of Osama bin Laden within the deeper perspective of human sin and divine grace. In the end, no death should give us pleasure. Another Scripture passage coming across the Twitter transom has been Ezekiel 18:23: "Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?"

For what it's worth, I don't celebrate the death of bin Laden. In fact, mourning seems more appropriate. What I mean is not that I am sad that Osama bin Laden has died. Rather, that it is a grievous thing–to God and to humanity–when a human being seeks evil instead of good, war instead of peace, and sows hatred instead of love. Bin Laden harmed many, including himself. His death is a reminder of the capacity for evil within every human being. His life was a tragedy.

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