On Tuesday, in Pakistan, the Taliban attempted to assassinate Malala Yousafzai, the 14-year-old activist who advocates for the right of young girls to be educated. Pakistan continues to fail to secure and protect the rights of women. The Taliban, in defiance of their own scriptures and threatened by the voice of a teenager, ignored the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed, “The one who is not kind to children, is not amongst us.”
I cannot escape this story! It raises a number of questions that should challenge the global community. While it is about the individual shooting of a young adolescent, it is also about the environment that necessitates the voice of a 14-year-old to speak out about injustices within education. Nobody else would speak – so she had to. To be sure, her voice reached the global advocacy community and she was recognized and awarded with several international prizes.
Malala began this journey when she was only 11. She cast a light on a system of injustices that denied girls the right to be informed and to contribute. For this, she was celebrated globally, but nearly killed in her own country for speaking out. This is a voice from the night that insisted that her country would be better if women were educated.
The WHY questions jump out at us.
- Why would a young girl need to advocate for her right to be educated?
- Why are men of this country or any country threatened by women being educated?
- Where were the adult advocates that should be speaking out and allowing the Malalas of the world to be focused on their education and well, quite simply, being a teenager?
- If this were one of my daughters – what would I do?
Global poverty contributes to conditions that threaten or undermine individual rights. In the social Darwinist world we live in, resources are secured by the strong. When individuals are denied those human rights then the conditions of poverty only worsen. We are cutting out a talent and resource pool that could make us all stronger. The Taliban is a weak and cowardly organization whose hate trumps their political agenda and leaves them with no recourse but to silence a child. We must not allow this violence to showcase the worst in all of us – a tendency to remain silent against such violence and oppression.
I left my quiet time on the bay this morning thinking of Matthew 18:5-6, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” (RSV) I confess, I pray for my Muslim sister Malala this morning that she recovers and continues to be a voice. I pray for all of us to see her as our family in the quest for gender equality and access. I also admit to praying that the Taliban responsible for this cowardly act would meet a few millstones.
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