I must confess to being an admirer of Malala Yousafzai. This sixteen year old Pakistani girl has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for her defiance of the local Taliban. The determination to stand up for a righteous cause almost cost Malala her life.
Surprisingly she does not come from a rich or privileged Pakistani family. Malala was born and brought up in the small market town of Mingora in the Swat valley. Her parents while comfortable, were by no means rich, but put a premium on their children’s education.
When Malala as a bright, energetic and articulate young girl began to speak out in favour of more and better education for girls, she put herself on a headlong collision course with the ultra conservative Islamist Taliban.
Life for Malala changed the day that two Taliban gunmen, flagged down and boarded her school bus, asked for her by name and shot her in the head. The attempted assassination of a child shocked the world. It also demonstrated that there were no limits to the Taliban’s barbarism.
Miraculously, Malala’s life was saved thanks to the skills of Pakistani surgeons and later treatment and rehabilitation in a British hospital.
She is now in the process of writing a book about her experiences: no mean feat for a 16 year old. A passionate believer in the truth, Malala’s simple values, beliefs and actions put many of this world’s adults to shame.
I had assumed that Malala Yousafzai would be regarded by the people of Pakistan as a hero for her defiant stand against extremism. Not so.
In a recent article in the Telegraph newspaper, journalist Rob Crilly explained: “although the attack immediately prompted deep soul searching among the country’s chattering classes, her message of peace through education has found little purchase among most of the population.
Plans to rename a string of girls schools after Malala also had to be reversed when pupils protested that it would mark them out for reprisal attacks.
Instead, opinion has hardened against the campaigner. In July, when she spoke at the United Nations, Malala was widely condemned by Pakistani commentators and nicknamed Malala Drama-zai on social media sites.A lively denial industry has sprung up, claiming that Malala was not even injured in the attack.”
We should honour Malala Youafzai for her courage and her defiance of those who would deny life and prosperity to the young.
The Book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible beautifully describes the value of education: ‘For the protection of wisdom is like the protection of money, and the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the life of him who has it.’Let’s pray that the protective hand of the living God will preserve Malala’s life from the continuing Taliban death threats.