Most everyone has heard by now of Malala Yousafzai, the 16 year old girl from Pakistan.
Having spoken out against the Taliban since age 11, Malala Yousafzai has not only been courageous, she has learned to inspire others. In 2009, Yousafzai began blogging for BBC News under the pseudonym Gul Makai, to describe her day-to-day routine in a town threatened by constant militant activity. On October 9th of 2012, she was shot in the head and neck by local Taliban insurgents for speaking out against the group’s edict banning girls from attending school. She and two classmates were targeted by a masked gunman who picked them out on a school bus as they went home from school in Pakistan’s northwest Swat valley. Malala – then 15 years old – was flown to Britain to receive specialist treatment from doctors in Birmingham, including a five-hour operation to reconstruct her skull and restore her hearing.
Amazingly, Yousafzai has already earned a spot on TIME magazine’s “The 100 Most Influential People In The World,” an international day of recognition, a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize, making her the youngest to ever be considered for the award.
Just last month, Malala celebrated her 16th birthday by delivering a speech at the United Nations in New York, in which she called on world leaders to provide free schooling for all children.
Wearing a shawl of the late Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan’s first female prime minister, Yousafzai affirmed in her UN speech that since her failed assassination, nothing has changed except that, “Weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born.”
She said, “. . .let us wage a global struggle against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism and let us pick up our books and pens. They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world. Education is the only solution. Education first.”
Interestingly – and importantly – Malala stated that she had no desire for revenge:
“I do not even hate the Talib who shot me. Even if there was a gun in my hand and he stands in front of me, I would not shoot him.”
“I am not against anyone, neither am I here to speak in terms of personal revenge against the Taliban or any other terrorist group. I’m here to speak up for the right of education for every child. I want education for the sons and daughters of the Taliban and all terrorists and extremists.”
She said she had learned this attitude from “Muhammad, the prophet of mercy, and Jesus Christ and Lord Buddha.” She said she was also inspired by people like Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, and Mother Teresa. Her philosophy was one of non-violence and the “forgiveness I’ve learned from my father and from my mother.” She said the Taliban were “misusing the name of Islam … for their own personal benefit.” Islam, she said, was a religion of “peace, humanity and brotherhood” that enshrined education of children not just as a right but “a duty and responsibility.”
Thank God for the courage of one Pakistani girl – to stand up, to speak out, and even to forgive.
God loves Pakistani girls and cares about their education – just as He cares for the rights of all girls and women. Because He can hate what people do but still love them as His created beings, God also loves the Taliban – no matter what they do. Let us pray for both. We all need Jesus.
(Postscript: Some in Pakistan have criticized Malala and the recognition she has been singled out for. They say it overlooks the plight of other innocent victims. This may be true. But my hope is that her voice would represent them and draw attention to the desperate condition of girls and women in parts of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and other nations around the world who deserve to be thought of with dignity and respect and to receive education and all other basic human rights.)