We are innocent. What is our crime?
What is our sin?
Her soft, brown eyes peek at us from pictures surfacing from the ripples of a sudden plunge into the spotlight. Her hair side-parted and modestly covered, Malala Yousafzai demonstrates a hunger for peace well beyond her fourteen years. In 2011, she was awarded the National Peace Award by the Government of Pakistan for her courage in seeking restoration of peace and education services; daily, she faces life threatening obstacles from the Taliban who deny her the education she seeks. In a short span of time, this tiny girl has become a towering figure in her pursuit of justice for herself and 50,000 other schoolgirls who lost the right to education in their communities.
Millions more are now familiar with Miss Yousafzai, who was forced off of her school bus, shot in the neck and critically wounded, along with two other young schoolgirls at the hands the Taliban.
Since 2009, when Miss Yousafzai was a mere ‘tween in the Swat Valley of Pakistan, the hope for education has burned in her heart. While other girls in freer societies tweeted their obsessions with fashion, musical heart throbs and their own schoolyard bullies, Miss Yousafzai became internationally known for her blog that encouraged education for her and other young girls.
Her opponents brazenly confess planning her demise for at least a year. This time they were mercifully denied satisfaction, though they threaten further attempts will be made until her voice is silenced. Global and local expressions of outrage and support have poured out on Miss Yousufzai’s behalf, and the magnification of her courage has likewise magnified her opponent’s cowardice – men who will go to such lengths to snuff out any beacon of light that pierces the darkness of their own souls.
NOTHING NEW UNDER THE SUN
As a Christian woman, when I think of the social conditions that were in place when Christ walked the earth, I am forced to see how little a young girl’s plight has changed in many areas of the world. Centuries may have passed, but the fundamental flaws in our human character remain the same, and they are often unavoidably woven into the fabric of our societies, both free and restricted.
Knowing this, Christ’s counter-cultural treatment of women always stands out to me in relief. In the first-century Roman Empire, a woman held very little sway on matters political or civil; their social plight two thousand years ago foreshadows the Taliban’s restrictions on a woman’s movements today, be they physical, political or intellectual.
Converse to these gaping holes in our societal fabric, many accounts in the Gospels tell us that Christ’s constant consideration of women was radical indeed – perhaps best displayed in the first witness of His resurrection and victory over hell, death and the grave; His greatest triumph was first revealed to a group of women.
That these women who gathered at his empty tomb were entrusted with the first knowledge of the risen Savior is affirmation of God’s high estimation of the word, witness and worth of a woman. There is one sole Entity who could first assess, and then restore a woman’s social worth properly as beings who bear the very image of God; that is the Creator of that image, God, Himself. These women were divinely commissioned to tell His disciples that Christ had risen, and the news of Hope for all humanity began to spread. “Go, tell the others what you have seen….” What a humbling honor, indeed, to be charged with bearing what has become a life-altering message for so many – including myself.
Yesterday, Miss Yousafzai fought for justice; today, she lies in hospital fighting for her life. It’s doubtful that life for this young woman will ever be the same, yet she and her family have accomplished more as ordinary citizens than many politicians have been able to do collectively.
I salute your courage, Malala; may you be victorious in your quest not just for education and a just society, but in your larger quest for recognition, and in understanding the fullness of your humanity. May you receive the dignity and significance that is your right in this universe, and may you come to know the One in Whose beautiful image you were made.
©Ellis Perspectives 2013
Learn more about Malala Yousafzai in Class Dismissed in Swat Valley, and A Schoolgirl’s Odyssee, two short documentaries produced by Adam B. Ellick for the New York Times and hosted by CBC News. Running time is 14:00 for part 1, 20:00 for part 2.