Faith Coloured Glasses looks at everyday experience through the eyes of faith. In daily life we encounter the presence and activity of God. Topics include personal spirituality, comments on current events, and seasonal articles.
Sunday, November 25, 2012
Malala Yousafzai: Sharing in the prophetic task
Because she is a girl, she was
shot in the head.
Malala Yousafzai has become a
household name since the Taliban attempted to assassinate her on October 9.That day, as Malala and other girls
rode home from school, Taliban gunmen boarded the canopied Toyota pick up truck
that served as their bus.
Malala’s crime: her conviction
that girls have a right to education. Her advocacy for the education of girls
began in 2009, when the Taliban captured her town of Mingora in the Swat valley
of Pakistan, and began a reign of terror. Eleven years old at the time, Malala
wrote a blog for the BBC describing life under the Taliban. While Malala wrote
anonymously under the pen name Gul Malek, which means “grief stricken”, it was
only a matter of time before the Taliban discovered her identity.
Since 2011, when she was awarded
Pakistan’s National Peace Prize, and nominated for the International Children’s
Peace Prize, the Taliban have been out to get Malala, who believes that education for girls is a human right, a means of reducing poverty, and a tool
for peace. Not surprisingly, these accolades fail to impress the Taliban, and
perhaps make them even more determined to harm Malala, whom they consider to be
a “symbol of obscenity”, and “an advocate for the west”. They have said they
will attack her again.
Malala has power over the Taliban
Even while she is wounded and recovering in a hospital bedfar from home, Malala has power over these men. While
she is at her weakest and most vulnerable, the strength of her convictions,
her spiritual courage, and her ability to inspire others scare these men. Because of her courageous spirit that arises from her deep convictions, Malala has successfully inspired her community and captured international attention. She epitomizes Ambrose Redmoon’s definition of
courage; “courage is not the absence fear, but rather the judgment that
something else is more important than fear.”
Malala’s courage is contagious.
It empowers others. Despite her fears, Malala publicly expressed the grief of
her community and persisted in her criticism of their oppressors.In the words of Malala’s friend Kainat Riaz, who was also wounded in the attack, Malala gave them courage; “she made
As if to prove her point, Riaz
has put herself at risk by telling the story of that fateful day. Armed guards
are posted outside her home to protect her and her family. Everyday, she and
other girls put themselves in harm’s way when they go to school. Since the
assassination attempt the Pakistani Taliban has adopted the horrific practice
of throwing acid in the faces of girls who continue to attend school.
A voice in the wilderness cries out for justice
The Taliban has presently
silenced Malala, but her voice echoes in the courageous but less attention
grabbing actions of others who daily challenge their oppressors. Her voice
echoes in the determined footsteps of girls who continue to attend school,
refusing to let the Taliban dictate their future. Her voice echoes in the
fathers who respect their daughters’ desire to learn, and who still allow their
daughters to attend school despite the risks. These fathers and daughters are
everyday prophets who know that to do nothing in the face of oppression
presents a greater risk. They are laying the foundations for change.
While the Taliban call Malala a
symbol of obscenity, others call her a “symbol of resistance”, a “symbol of
peace,” and a “voice in the wilderness”.This last epithet strikes me as particularly apt.It brings to mind Biblical prophets, like Moses, Isaiah, and John the Baptist. These were not doom and gloom harbingers of an
apocalypse. These were prophets who brought hope to communities that were
oppressed with injustice.They challenged
the dominant culture, offered a different vision of the future and energized
Malala is like these prophets.
She discerns a reality that transcends her current personal and communal
experience of suffering. She envisions a new future full of possibility.She inspires others to work for change.
Every so often, someone
exceptional like Malala appears as a leader in a community. While her prophetic
imagination is linked with the culture and history of a specific situation, the
call to be a prophet is universal. Each one of us shares the prophetic task of
envisioning and building a more just world, where the dignity and rights of all
people are honored. Each one of us has a responsibility to do our part so that
justice flows like a mighty river, enriching the lives of all people,
regardless of sex, race, or creed.
Read more on the courage of girls like Malala in this story from Kathy Gannonof the Associated Press.