The Word on the Week


It must be a couple of years since I read the book “I am Malala” and was moved by the courage of this young Pakistani girl who defied the Taliban.

The Nobel committee don’t always get it right but in awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to her this week they certainly did. At 17 she is the youngest ever to receive the award and the first from Pakistan.

It all started in the home of her headmaster father where Malala was the eldest daughter. Her father campaigned against the exclusion of girls from the education system and in doing so incurred the wrath of the Taliban.

These were bloody times in the Swat Valley with the Taliban using force to impose their brand of Islam. Despite the danger her father went on to found a girls school which quickly built up an enrolment of 200 pupils.

Malala espoused her father’s ideals and before she was in her teens began writing a blog on BBC Urdu programme about life in the Swat Valley. This continued to highlight injustices but more particularly the plight of girls being banned from attending school. Eventually her identity was discovered and life became even more difficult. During this period her father’s courage was exemplary. Through many threats he was not intimidated and kept his school going although the number of pupils became much smaller as fear gripped the community.

The day Malala was shot she was on the school bus on her way to school.

A Taliban fighter boarded the bus and shot her through the head and shoulder. Providentially the shot was not fatal and after treatment in both the local and national hospitals she was airlifted to Birmingham where her face was rebuilt.

Now, at age 17 and still at school, she supports, through the Malala Fund, local education groups in countries like Pakistan. Her work has taken her to Nigeria where she has campaigned on behalf of the 200 girls kidnapped by the Boko Haram. Her message is simple. “Don’t let anyone tell you that you are weaker or less that anything – you are not less than a boy you are not less than a child from a richer or more powerful country.”

Courage and a cause are powerful motivators.

John the Baptist looked for evidence of the Messiah. Jesus referred him to the evidence which fulfilled prophesy. “The blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear and the dead are raised up and the poor have the good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” (St Matthew Chapter 11 verses 4/6).

John might have hoped for countrywide repentance leading to regime change and the mild rebuke at the end of the evidence required John (and us) to be open to God’s unfolding plan. This led Jesus to the cross where our chronic sinfulness could be dealt with and the poor in spirit from all nations liberated from guilt to serve the Lord in the situations in which he has placed them.

Christian emancipation goes beyond education and “rights” to being ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven and to look after others rights including their salvation.