Malala Yousafzal is fourteen years old and lies unconscious in a hospital room with a bullet wound to her head.
Taliban militants targeted this beautiful, delicate little girl for death. They stopped her school bus filled with giggling girls on their way to class in Pakistan. They boarded the bus and demanded her by name. Someone pointed her out, and a man shot her. Then he shot two other girls as they left the bus.
These men of the Taliban called little Malala obscene for wanting to go to school. For speaking out publicly about wanting to go to school, they condemned her to die.
Malala wrote about her fears, but also of her hopes to become a doctor someday; to be able to go to school like her brothers were able to go to school.
She spoke with reporters and said that she wanted to tell to the Taliban why they were wrong and why the Koran did not forbid the education of girls. She explained in public forums why she would not obey the Taliban.
Her touching, simple words touched the hearts of thousands. Her story reached the world through the BBC. Her courage in speaking at rallies and interviews with local and international press amazed people.
Not only because of her eloquence and composure and intelligence, but because she understood exactly what she was doing. She understood what even some reporters did not really understand: That with every word she uttered, she knew that she was putting herself deeper and deeper in danger. She knew the Taliban. She knew their brutality. She had lived with the violence they brought to her community. She knew what it meant to be their target.
She spoke anyway. She spoke openly and courageously where adults whispered if they dared to say anything at all. She held that candle of courage in her little hand that lit the way out of the darkness the Taliban had imposed over minds and hearts through fear. And the deepest darkness is conquered by the smallest light. So the cowards turned their guns on a little girl to extinguish that flame and frighten others into silence again.
Education is power, especially for girls. Malala knows this and has used her voice to advocate for others. The Taliban underestimated Malala from the beginning but her power has already been unleashed. They cannot call it back. An educated girl becomes an informed woman, able to make the best choices for her own well-being and that of her family; generations are impacted. As we mark the International Day of the Girl, Malala speaks to all of us to take action on our responsibility that girls’ human rights are to be respected”
The people of Pakistan have taken to the streets to show their love for her. The people of Pakistan have denounced the bullies with bullets who believe that God wants them to shoot little girls. The people of Pakistan will hold her courage in their hearts and not let her voice die even as she fights to live.
There is something in me that resists hating even hateful people. I am struggling not to hate these soul-crushing cowards. I am losing this struggle. I need this little girl to guide me to the loving place she had arrived. Malala is a fighter who does not hate. She simply will not surrender to evil. She has become a symbol of the power of wisdom and hope and possibilities.
I don’t want her to become a martyr. I want Malala to live forever.
Let us pray.