What does courage look like? One doesn’t need to look beyond the face of Malala Yousafzai, who this last week returned home to the beautiful area of Swat in NW Pakistan. You may remember that in 2012, when she was only 14 and on her way to school, Taleban gunmen stopped her bus and asked “Who is Malala?”, words that have since entered a human lexicon for courage. They then shot her and left her for dead. She did survive, and left the country to live in England.
Now the age of 20, Malala has been studying at Oxford and continuing to advocate for the same causes that got her shot, women’s education and empowerment. It would not be unfair to say that Malala deserves to stay in England and be a champion from there, to live a secure life. But that is not Malala. Instead, she determined to go home and continue her work from there. She is not one to rest on having been the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize winner, or all her other accomplishments at such a young age. No, she had to go back home, to face the very real possibility of death.
As she headed to Pakistan a few days ago, here is what she said upon reaching and speaking from the Prime Minister’s house in Islamabad, on national television: ” Always it has been my dream that I should go to Pakistan and there, in peace and without any fear, I can move on streets. I can meet people, I can talk to people. And I think that it’s my old home again…so it is actually happening and I am grateful to all of you.” Then she added, almost unbelievably, “I don’t cry much, I don’t know why today.”
Malala loves her nation, she loves the people of Pakistan. Of course not all in her country love her in return, and hence the need for courage in the face of possible attacks. Courage can be seen in many lives, in many acts. But certainly as I see this young woman’s life, I see a level of courage that is breathtaking. The courage to not only endure suffering, but to return home to face potentially much more.
Thank you, Malala, for being such an example to young women in the Muslim world, and to all of us. I pray for you today, for protection, for life, for love. For the continued ability to lift your voice for the voiceless.
Godspeed and God-help.