Catriona Robertson

journeys at home and abroad

Bin Laden’s death

Two public statements today reflected my own unease on hearing of Osama bin Laden’s death in Pakistan – neither of them were Barack Obama’s.  I was glad bin Laden had been found, but sorry that there seemed to be no official regret that he was killed rather than captured.

“Justice has been done”, says Obama.  For me, justice involves a fair trial.  And this necessitates a sincere attempt at a live arrest.  We don’t always manage this in Britain – I was on the recent march against deaths in police custody after Smiley Culture’s death.

Perhaps the celebrations in the USA have something to do with the popularity of the death penalty there – and the presumption that any bin Laden trial would have led to execution.

In the end we always have to talk and sort conflicts out the hard way – and eventually we’ll need to do this with those who support Al-Qaeda.  It’s not easy – the process is still under way in Northern Ireland.  We need to “be the change we want to see”, as Gandhi said.

Am I just naïvely squeamish?  Would an expensive and security-intensive trial have been impossible?  Did Nuremberg only work because the defendants were the vanquished?

The trials of those accused of war crimes in the former Yugoslavia have not yet finished – Ratko Mladic is still at large.  I cannot imagine the victims or the victims’ families building a future there without the bedrock of a meticulous judicial system and for the stories to be told.  As Canon David Porter says in his blog, we need to tell our stories, our histories, to each other – and renegotiate them in the re-telling, generation by generation.

The Muslim Council of Britain released this statement.

Few will mourn the reported death of Osama bin Laden, least of all Muslims. Many Muslims will reflect on the ten years that have passed in which our faith and our community have been seen through the prism of terrorism and security. The Muslim Council of Britain has consistently stood firm against terrorism and violence, and will continue to do so. His extremism has been responsible for the deaths of many people, including many Muslims around the world. The actions of his movement which have no basis in the teachings of Islam have led to the pursuit of unjust wars and untold suffering.

Today our thoughts must be with the families of all those who suffered in the terrorist attacks around the world as well as of thousands of innocent lives lost in the wars against terrorism. It is unfortunate that his assassination has deprived them of the opportunity to see him brought to justice in the court of law.

Al-Qaeda’s ability to sow discord and mistrust between Muslims and others has caused untold damage. We must restore our belief in human dignity and peace by ensuring that we stand firm against all forms of hatred, injustices and violence.

The Vatican released this via Fr Federico Lombardi, Director of the Holy See Press Office.

Osama bin Laden – as we all know – was gravely responsible for promoting division and hatred between peoples, causing the end of countless innocent lives, and of exploiting religions to this end.

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.

Ameen and amen to both of these.

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9 comments on “Bin Laden’s death

  1. jeanne hinton
    16 May 2011

    Rather late in the day just to say appreciate this. I too felt dismay at the way Bin Laden’s death was lauded in the press and found others who felt the same. I imagine we have yet to see what repercussions will follow. Forgive short comment. Recovering from my knee op !

  2. Pingback: Licence to kill? « Catriona Robertson

  3. Gillian Warrior
    4 May 2011

    Yes, deep unease and disagreement at the killing of Osama bin Laden and disappointment in President Obama.

  4. catherine heckman
    3 May 2011

    It is not possible to rejoice in someone’s death however evil they appear to be otherwise there is no hope of them changing for the better. We should pray for their conversion not their death. Also one man’s soldier is another man’s terrorist e.g. the Irish Republican Army.

    • Catriona Robertson
      3 May 2011

      Thanks Catherine.

      Re your second point, I’ve been reminded recently of Gaddafi’s support for Nelson Mandela and the ANC when it was a ‘terrorist’ outfit (& the Nicaraguans).

      Only a few people supported the struggle in South Africa then – I was boycotting grapes (& buying Campaign Coffee from Nicaragua), but Gaddafi was sending large amounts of money.

      Not easy.

  5. Phillipe cotgreave de Rahman
    3 May 2011

    Rejoicing at the death or killing of ‘any’ of God’s creatures comes at a cost to us all. The cost(s) are not always obvious.

    History teaches us this again and again.

    There may well be understandable relief at the death of one so feared and notorious as Osama Bin Laden, however, we have all played our part in the creation and re-creation of fear and hate crimes, both doemstic and foreign. Global terrorism begins in our heras and minds and is expressed through the atrocities witnessed these past 10 years plus.

    Terrorism did not just happen. It was created in our time, out of our collective global histories and choices.

    Our thoughts and actions need to be of peace and reconicialtion as well as justice and reconciliation as opposed to retribution at any cost.

    Osama Bin Laden had many associates and supporters the concern now will be what will happen if they decide to avenge his death.

    Let’s ‘Think global and act local’. Peace in out time means that we need to collectively work toward creating a new order where peace and reconciliation become the guiding principles of all decison making and actions, locally and globally.

    • Catriona Robertson
      3 May 2011

      Thanks Phillipe – no easy answers.

      More details are coming out about the shooting (twice in the head – reminds me of the Jean-Charles de Menezes killing) and I’m no less easy about it than I was on Sunday evening.

      Or is that double standards? – I’d not be so shocked if it were DR Congo or Burma who were responsible. I was one of the ones who cried when Barack Obama was elected President.

  6. Catriona Robertson
    3 May 2011

    And a good piece by Ekklesia’s Simon Barrow “A death blow or a shot in the arm for al-Qaida?” http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/14687. Simon’s a good follow on twitter, too – @simonbarrow.

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