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 weapon With 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)

We do not rejoice at the punishment meted out to an enemy; we have been taught by the holy laws to have human sympathy.

--Philo, "Flaccus" (Jewish)

Love Your Enemies
"But I say to you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To him who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from him who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to every one who begs from you; and of him who takes away your goods do not ask them again. And as you wish that men would do to you, do so to them."

--Luke 6:27-31 (Christian)

It is the principle of the pure in heart never to injure others, Even when they themselves have been hatefully injured. Hating others, even enemies who harmed you unprovoked, Assures incessant sorrow.

--Tirukkural 32:312-313 (Hindu)

How do you pray that sinners die? Rather pray that they should repent, and thus there will be no more wickedness.

--Talmud, Berakot 10a (Jewish)

Whenever you hear that someone else has been successful, rejoice. Always practice rejoicing for others--whether your friend or your enemy. If you cannot practice rejoicing, no matter how long you live, you will not be happy.

--Lama Zopa Rinpoche, "Transforming Problems Into Happiness"

It is better for my enemy to see good in me than for me to see evil in him.

--Yiddish proverb (Jewish)

Act Humbly
Humility is the strength of the strong and the weapon With which the wise conquer their foes.

--Tirukkural 99:985 (Hindu)

Humility is my mace; To become the dust under everyone's feet is my dagger. These weapons no evildoer dare withstand.

--Adi Granth (Sikhism)

Learn from the Creator: He revealed himself on Sinai, not on high mountains, in a bush, not in majestic trees.

--Joseph b. Hiyya, Talmud: Sota 5a (Jewish)

Additional Resources

  • A Catholic Litany on Humility
  • A Christian's Duty in a Time of War
  • Humility & Mount Sinai
  • The Four keys of Good Conduct
  • Humility in Islam
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