'Rejoice Not When Your Enemy Falls'

What is an appropriate response to military victory in Iraq? Religious leaders and texts caution against too much celebration.

Today the world watched as Iraqis celebrated American control of Baghdad and tried to topple the statue of Saddam Hussein. The Iraqis' joy seems justified, but what's an appropriate response to military victory in the U.S.? Religious leaders might caution against this kind of celebration.

"My heart doesn't allow me to cheer and have a bravado about the war," said Bishop Skip Adams, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Central New York. "The rejoicing for me will come in a just peace, and in welcoming soldiers home."


Rabbi James Rudin, Senior Interreligious Affairs Adviser for the American Jewish Committee and a former U.S. Air Force and Army chaplain, said it was important to "strike a balance between celebration and false humility."

"One can rejoice in victory," Rudin said. "The defeat of Saddam Hussein's tyranny is worthy of rejoicing."

But, he said, "Military parades can bother me. We are grateful to them, but everyone knows the U.S. has the most powerful military in the world. We don't have to flaunt it."


Many world religions encourage humility in the defeat of enemies. These quotes from sacred texts and spiritual leaders explore the theme of humility in wartime:


When Your Enemy Falls

"Rejoice not when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles."

--Proverbs 24:17 (Jewish and Christian)

Humility is the strength of the strong and the weaponWith which the wise conquer their foes.

--Tirukkural 99:985 (Hindu)

If you want to get rid of your enemy, the true way is to realize that your enemy is delusion.

--Kegon Sutra (Buddhist)

Allah has full knowledge of your enemies. Sufficient is He as your Protector, and sufficient is He to comfort you.

--Qur'an, An-Nisa, Surah 4:45 (Muslim)
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