Osama Bin Laden was shot dead and buried in the Arabian Sea by the US Navy Seals. President Obama announcing the death of United States' most wanted enemy said that "Justice is done!". There were celebrations all over the United States celebrating the death of the most hated terrorist who allegedly is responsible for the death of many Americans. The excitement was so hight in some places that they did not care who really died. When the news was announced, some students who were celebrating in an American university shouted cheefully that "Obama is shot dead," not realizing the subtle difference in the two names!
There are lot of questions to be answered. First of all, what is "justice" and how justice is done?
Justice is righting wrong. Justice means that somebody has caused someone some sort of distress and that situation has to be corrected. There are many ways of righting the wrong. Restraining the person who did the wrong thing and making sure that person will not do it again is one thing. But that is the second step. Removing the disadvantage that the victim suffers is the first step. Then comes the second step of making sure that it will not happen.
When someone robs a person, the person is caught, he has to return what he has robbed. The wrong is corrected. Then the robber is restrained or corrected so that it will not happen again. However, this really doesn't apply to murders. The murderer has taken from the victim and his dear ones something he cannot return, that is life. However, the disadvantage that the victim suffers can be corrected. The ways the Old Testament deals with this is instructive. If the murder was intentional then the murderer has to pay by his life. He will be killed. If the murder was unintentional then the murderer can take refuge in one of the asylums called "cites of refuge" and spend the rest of his life there or will be caught and executed.
In both cases, justice is done by removing the disadvantages that the victim suffers. In ancient agrarian societies number mattered. The families with larger number of people were better off than smaller families. That is, the sheer number of workforce was crucial for their life, prosperity and security. When a family or clan is killed the murderer and his group gains an advantage over them. This can be corrected only by the death of a member from the family or clan of the murderer; and nobody is responsible for this other than the murderer, so his life has to be taken. By keeping the murderer in one of the cities of refuge he is restrained by participating in the life of his community. Thus "An eye for an eye" approach was a primitive form of ensuring peace and prosperity.
This clarifies the words "revenge" and "avenge". There is a huge difference between "revenge" and "avenge". Revenging is to return the evil for evil. It has no other motivation or purpose. However, "avenge" is correcting a situation and bringing justice by returning the same or similar act. Revenge is retaliation but avenging is to bring justice. The Old Testament "An eye for an eye" thinking was a avenging than revenge.
This same principle doesn't apply to modern situations. By killing the man who is responsible for the death of thousands of Shias (Saddam Hussein), or American civilians in WTC attack (Osama bin Laden) the disadvantage that the victims or their families suffer is not corrected. All that they get is the feeling that he will not be able to do it again to anyone else beside satisfying their thirst for revenge. However, there are number of other ways of making sure that he will not doing it again than killing him and revenge is not Christian at all.
Killing a person terminates not only life but opportunities for that person to be a better person in life. In Christ there is a standing invitation to all humanity to change, to shed hatred. To deny any person that opportunity is a denial of God. To conclude that a person is beyond correction is arrogance. The modern world has denied Saddam Hussein, Velupillai Prabhakaran, Bin Laden and many others that opportunity. What we have done is gross injustice to our Christian conscience!
Thursday, May 05, 2011
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