Interfaith and Higher Education (Part 3): Constructive Reactions to Local/Global Affairs

Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden was killed by Navy SEALs on May 1st

This is the third article in a several part series throughout this quarter, written by Nic Cable, focusing on the complexities of interfaith work in higher education. These articles are in conjunction with an academic independent study project on the same themes. This article was originally published in the DePaulia, DePaul University’s student newspaper.

Late at night on Sunday, May 1, a text message notified me to turn on the news, if I wasn’t already watching it. So, I did. In bold type, which I assume many will never forget, the headline read, “Bin Laden is Dead.”

I froze, took a double take, and then it hit me: an era was over. This era was the narrative of terrorism as symbolized through the face of Osama bin Laden throughout the past couple decades. My immediate feeling was disbelief, and then it rushed over me; the memory of my seventh grade social studies class with Ms. Goodwin watching the news with my fellows students; the memory of sitting on my neighbor’s stoop that night over a lit candle, asking the hard questions and thinking about the even more difficult answers to the days events; memories of war and death followed, hitting me in the face with blood and screams of agony; all of these memories washed over me like an ice cold shower of suppressed pain.

However, what was worse than that immediate reflection to that headline was a new memory that will haunt me even more for the rest of my life. Cheers, celebration and singing were the reactions by Americans as the news broke of bin Laden’s death—at least as it was represented by the media. It seemed like a raucous celebration at the time.

Then, I realized the death of bin Laden symbolized more than the death of one of the most wanted terrorists in recent history; it also symbolized the death of the last decade or so of fear, loss and pain that dictated the lives of Americans for some time.

The question that rose next in my heart was regarding the next steps, what would happen now; how is this reaction going to impact our abilities to find closure and build a lasting peace between individuals, communities, nations and most importantly, within our hearts?

I find the death of Osama Bin Laden to be an opportunity for deep reflection about who we are as individuals and who we want to be as a global people. The reactions of his death were understandable; to many people, he was the symbol of terror that plagued the recent history of the world. But now is a time for hope, a time for unifying our hearts to consider the possibility of a world not dictated by terror, but of peace and love and justice.

In my mind, this begins with building strong, respectful relationships between religious communities in this country. It is vital that we begin to realize we are a diverse people and our destinies are both intertwined and made more beautiful if we embrace this reality. At DePaul University, we are working to build healthy relationships between people of diverse backgrounds and religious/philosophical traditions, in order to create an atmosphere on campus where we can work for justice and respond to injustice with shared acclamations of love and compassion.

The death of Osama bin Laden marked the end of an era. However, a new era was born that day. Unnamed as of yet, it is up to us to consider what we hope this next era will be like. My hope is that it is an era of solidarity, of justice and of faith in humanity. We are a beautiful, diverse people; the days, weeks and months moving forward will not only prove this proposition, but amaze us regarding the real potential we have as citizens of the world.

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