Blessed be the Peacemakers.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
Never mind that I was physically in poor shape. The news that Malala Yousfzai had won the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize greeted me on a day when everything else was going right. Things were looking up. Mentally drained, I received a few pieces of good news related to my academic work. This news was the cream on the cake.
I was so happy.
Malala is sharing this prestigious prize with the Indian children’s rights activist, Kailash Satvarthi. I must confess that in a world gone mad, my mind preoccupied with too much of the bad news from around the globe, I did not know too much about young Malala Yousfzai other than what is already widely known from the time that she escaped death at the hands of the deranged Taliban to her world-wide crusade campaigning for the rights and freedom of women and children, particularly in the regions of India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, to now.
 

She was also in the news recently after the despicable Boko Haram terrorists kidnapped innocent Nigerian school girls. She was in the front line of campaigning for their immediate release.

I cannot add much to what has already been said and written about this saintly young woman who reminds me so much of Our Mother, the Virgin Mary and the great Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. I tried my best to bring myself up to date with the good news, so, here I will share a few anecdotes that I picked up from the reports placed online by Reuters, the Wall Street Journal, the Guardian and AFP.

On days like these, I am reminded of our Lord Jesus Christ who lived and died to save us all. Of the hundreds of lessons, parables and pronouncements that He made during His short, physical life on Earth, two were pertinent for me. One, related to how we should treat our children is placed in a recent post on the innocence of children (alongside that of Nelson Mandela, also a Nobel Peace Prize winner).

The other is simply this;

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”

This is the New International Version of the Holy Bible, quoting Matthew 5: 9. There are many other versions, all worded differently, but its essential meaning remains the same.

There are those who remain disappointed and feel excluded when they remark that Jesus was a Christian prophet. But, it is a known truth that Christ came to save all of us, not just one religious sect or group. On that point, I mention Thorbjoern Jagland’s quote during his announcement of the peace prize winners;

“The Nobel Committee regards it as an important point for a Hindu and a Muslim, an Indian and a Pakistani, to join a common struggle for education and against extremism.” 

I am reminded, too, of the great Mahatma’s prophetic words at the height of his struggle for India’s independence from the British Empire and his struggle against extremism and secularism and the partitioning of India into two states. When he was asked whether he was a Hindu, he retorted simply;

“Yes I am (a Hindu). I am also a Muslim, a Christian, a Buddhist, and a Jew.” 

This statement is so profound and is relevant to our divided world today. Gandhi substantiated this retort to religious fundamentalism. I will paraphrase his remarks here;

All religions were true. But all had some error in them. While he remained true to his Hindu faith, he believed that he should regard dearly those that were Muslim, Christian, Jewish, and so forth. His innermost prayer was that no matter what religion we belonged to or faith that we professed, we should be better. So, in my case, I should strive to be a better Christian. If you are Muslim, you should strive to be a better Muslim. Jewish, better. And so on.

The title of Malala Yousfzai’s biography, co-written by Christina Lamb, seems to encapsulate what we should try to be;

I am Malala.” 

Indeed, Christina Lamb had this to say in response to the Nobel Committee’s announcement;

“…it’s absolutely fantastic. I don’t think it could have been given to a better person. She really is out there trying to make a difference and she risked her life for it, so that should be rewarded.”

Vibhuti Agarwal, in a blog post for the Wall Street Journal, asks a question that I have asked myself many times before. Why did Gandhi never win the Nobel Peace Prize?

So, in the interest of peace, I will not ponder for too long on other open questions such as why the commander in chief of the world’s most powerful and destructive military regime was awarded the peace prize in 2009, or why the leader of the Roman Catholic Church has merely apologised to victims and their families for the sexual abuse committed by many members of his clergy over a period of many years.

Let us stay with the good news.

 

 

Both Malala and her co-winner, Kailash Satyarthi, continue the legacy of the great Mahatma. One of many quotable quotes by Malala also echo’s the philosophy of Jesus Christ when He appeals to us to rather turn the other cheek when harmed by our enemy;

“I don’t even hate the Talib who shot me.”

She takes this statement further, saying that the Taliban “terrorists” (her word) have failed in preventing her from campaigning on behalf of oppressed young women who are denied equal rights and education. She also echo’s a previous winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi, when she says that “weakness, fear and hopelessness” have died. She told the United Nations General Assembly last year that “strength, power and courage was born.”

Malala vowed that even if she had a gun in her own hand and was confronted once more with a Talib she would still not shoot him.

We know now that after her ordeal, and with the encouragement of her Pakistani father, a school principal no less, she has made Birmingham, England her new home. Going to school there planted the seeds of her global campaign.

Thinking about the scourge of the Ebola virus in West Africa, I am reminded of Steven Soderbergh’s excellent movie, Contagion. In it, Alan Krumwiede (Jude Law), a conspiracy theorist and social media activist, is castigated by Nobel Prize winner (fictional), Dr Ian Sussman (Elliott Gould), who mockingly derided that bloggers were amateurs and never journalists in the true sense of the word. Krumwiede’s activism was, nevertheless, a valuable contributor towards curbing (and ending) the spread of a deadly virus.

A note of encouragement to all bloggers with a conscience. Continue with your work. Don’t let up. “Never, ever give up.” With her father’s encouragement, Malala started her own blog, writing anonymously (one can understand why) about her life in her home region which was controlled by the Taliban. Addressing the United Nations, she called up the old idiom.

“The wise saying, ‘The pen is mightier than the sword’ was true. The extremists are afraid of books and pens. The power of education frightens them.”

And there are many who, understandably, believe that the pursuit of a formal education is futile for them in these days. Not true. Ask Malala. She has her own Twitter account. Look her up. On graciously acknowledging her award, she tweeted;

“Thank you All Support and Love.”

There’s that word again. Love.

I think young Malala, mature beyond her years, would agree that it would not be fair to let her steal all the glory. Let us also pay tribute her lesser-known campaigner, Kailash Satyarthi. Glowingly, both the Wall Street Journal and The Guardian detail Mr Satyarthi’s continuance of Mahatma Gandhi’s legacy.

Mr Satyarthi’s thirty-year long campaign against the enslavement of children, peaceful and non-violent, has contributed towards a drastic decline in the recorded numbers of child labourers. To date, his Save the Childhood Movement has rescued over 80,000 children from “servitude.”

 

Malala speaks at UN HQes

 

Bestowing the Nobel Peace Prize to Mr Satyarthi, the Nobel committee said;

“Showing great personal courage, Kailash Satyarthi, maintaining Gandhi’s tradition, has headed various forms of protests and demonstrations, all peaceful, focusing on the grave exploitation of children for financial gain. He has also contributed to the development of important international conventions on children’s rights.”

If he were alive today, I think the Mahatma would be quite proud. So, too, Mother Teresa of Calcutta. I am, anyway.

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