15 October 2012

Pakistani girl shot for advocating education for girls.

Malala Yousafzai [born 1997, shot on 9 October 2012 and now in hospital]
The photo that I originally used here, taken from Wikipedia, has been removed from the latter.

Fourteen-year-old Malala Yousafzai was flown to the United Kingdom today in an air-ambulance provided by the United Arab Emirates. My Columban confrere here in the Philippines, Fr Shay Cullen, writes in his weekly Reflections about her:

The only way out of grinding poverty and a life of child labor in the developing world is to give the children an education. Millions of children grow up unable to read and write and are locked out of a life of knowing, enlightenment and human development. They have to struggle and endure the hardship of working for a living from an early age. 

Eleven-year-old Grace was one child among thousands whose parents were so poor that they could not afford to send her to a public school. After Grade Two, they sent her to the beaches of Puerto Galera in the Philippines to sell necklaces and bangles made from sea shells. This uneducated child was easily lured into a beach hut by a rich foreign child-sex tourist and gravely abused. If Grace had been in school like most children, it would never have happened. She would have been smarter and wiser too about the dangers to children from the child-sex tourists who prey on innocent, ignorant, uneducated children. That child-abuser was arrested and brought to justice. 
Getting vulnerable children into school is one of the most important and effective ways to overcome poverty; it breaks the otherwise endless cycle of child exploitation and abuse.

[My own comment: How many of us priests speak about what God will ask of us on the day of judgment?]

What could be worse for a child than growing up ignorant, illiterate, and unable to read or write?  What could be worse is to be a 14-year-old girl child student in the Swat Valley of Pakistan or any Taliban infested country and advocate child education. Brave and courageous 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai made child education her mission until a Taliban extremist went up to her school van last week and shot her at point blank range. As I write this she is struggling in hospital with a bullet removed from her head and back. She had been warned to stop but she continued her mission. 
What drives extremists to such barbaric acts of attempted child murder in the name of religion is the lack of moral and true spiritual education, ignorance and fear. These makes youth easily vulnerable to extremist persuasions and easily converted to simplistic religious views that advocate violent acts disguised as acts of piety and religious zeal. 

The vast majority of Muslims condemned the attempted child murder as un-Islamic and against the Koran which honors persons as children of Allah. The vast majority of Muslims love and cherish their children and strive and sacrifice to have them educated in the true religion of Islam that we all respect. 

Yet some children never make it to school and the lack of mental and intellectual development leaves the uneducated child likely to grow up physically but not humanely. The male is prone to be violent and oppressive. What education did for Malala Yousafzai and thousands of others is that it gave her more than knowledge about things and a variety of subjects, it gave her happiness, and a zest for living, compassion, love and concern for others. That's what education did for her, the lack of it in another brought about her near assassination. She loved to learn and wanted all children to have that chance, she loved others as a result. 
Education can give all a sense of the true value of the human person, one that helps us all to have respect for each other. Malala Yousafzai was determined that every girl child like her should go to school and learn, grow and develop their personalities and characters to lead useful meaningful lives as it is their right. She spoke out for these rights at 14 years of age and paid a terrible price. 

Those few who detest the education of girls fear what knowledge can do to empower the person. Knowledge is empowerment. Knowledge and learning is what opens the mind and heart to see the world, and understand it. It sparks self-awareness and knowledge and that kindles a spirit of freedom, joy and exuberance of life.  It frees the human will to decide its free choice and course in life. Good education frees us from the dark dungeon of ignorance and unknowing. Knowledge of one’s self is knowledge of one’s rights, dignity, equality and independence. That is what real education does; it leads us forward to a better life. 
 In a girl or woman, all this is anathema to a chauvinistic extremist male view of life where men wrongly demand and enjoy dominating, controlling and subjugating girls and women. The brave and courageous girls and women who do fight back for freedom and dignity are often beaten and battered. Many cannot overcome this dominance which violates their freedom of choice to have or not have more children than they can bear, feed and educate. That lack of choice can perpetuate the cycle of endless poverty, hunger, disease, ignorance and early death after a brutal short existence. 
Education for the child, especially girls, is the way out, the journey to enlightenment, empowerment and freedom from dominance and abuse. Educating children is ensuring their right to a life of dignity and decency, respect and freedom. Educating a child is among the greatest acts of charity we can do for the poor and the downtrodden. If we can educate even one child, we have saved a life, hers and perhaps even our own. 


Please pray for the full recovery of this remarkably brave young girl.

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