I’m a lover of books, pens, paper, and written words. For as long as I can remember, I have loved to read. As a young girl, I rarely went anywhere without a book in my hand. Books accompanied me to school, track meets, family vacations, and time alone with friends. Books were my companions as I snuggled under comforters or when my feet were in the warm South Carolina sand.
Everyone noticed this great love, and they encouraged more reading, learning, and exploration still. I don’t know what it’s like to grow up in a place where girls are not expected to learn, grow, or thrive simply because they are girls. But I do know that as an African American girl from a small town, education has been a great equalizer in my life. As an African American girl from a small town, education has been a great equalizer in my life. Click To Tweet
Malala is Made in God’s Image
God’s grace and hand in my attending the United States Naval Academy is the reason I have lived my adult life in the middle class, have had the privilege of choosing jobs and switching careers, owning a home, buying a car, and dreaming about a better way ahead for me, the community and causes I serve, and mostly certainly for my daughter (my girl)!
I don’t recall when I first became aware of Malala’s story. I think it was around the time I began watching documentaries about Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s National Bestseller, Half the Sky: Turning Oppressions into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. God was speaking to my heart about womanhood, his Word to women, and the global violence against girls and women. I wanted to be very clear with the use of my voice, words, ministry, and service opportunities that God cares very deeply about women, and women too are made in the image of God.
Into this wrestling and personal reflection, God brought the story of a young girl named Malala—a 15 year old who was shot in the face by the Taliban because she applied herself to learning and raised her voice as a champion of education for girls. She was so bold, in part, because she had a father who valued her as fully human and who challenged her to live up to her name.
She was named after a young girl, Malalai of Maiwand, Afghanistan, who encouraged Afghan soldiers in the Battle of Maiwand. When the British tried to take over Afghanistan in 1800, she used her words and song to encourage the men and boy soldiers of Afghanistan. Eventually they won the battle, but Malalai herself was shot and died on the battle field.
The National Geographic’s upcoming February 29 (8 PM ET/PT) television premier of He Named me Malala, begins with these words of Malalai from the battle, “It is better to live like a lion for one day than live like a slave for a hundred years.” That’s courage. In this documentary, Malala hopes that people will learn this courage from her own life.
Malala’s Story is an Important Narrative for Christians
As a Christian, it is not lost on me that Malala and her family are devoted Muslims. Less there be unnecessary concern for “Islamic propaganda” in a narrative such as this, I believe we need to read, listen to, and watch stories like this one.
For me and so many others, Malala has put a name, face, and important narrative into the growing stereotypes, uncertainties, and outright lies concerning the Islamic faith and tradition. I don’t have to know all the facts and history of Islam to understand that as a believer of Christ, I do not want to be discriminated against for every hint of violence, every wrong action, or every choice words other professing Christians take or make. Malala puts a name & face into the growing stereotypes & outright lies about Islam. Click To Tweet
Malala Teaches Us how to Confront Dangerous Propaganda
As a “racial” minority from a historically oppressed people group in this country, I do recognize that the formula for evil to perpetuate in a society looks eerily the same across history and throughout people groups.
In Malala’s story there was a tyrant leader of the Taliban who shaped the hearts and minds of Muslims by controlling the radio airwaves. He did not allow for the celebration of music, art, or influences of others who did not agree with him. He did not allow the use of television or computers. He told the women and men in society who they were, what they should think about themselves, and how to respond to other people.
In another country, at a different time, Little Anne Frank told us that these were the same propaganda, war strategies, and techniques of Adolf Hitler. For that reality and for being a Jew, she died. As a minority, I recognize the formula for perpetuating evil. Click To Tweet
The formula for blatant oppression of “others” and the moral decline of a country is an ignorant or uneducated people, removing the influences of anyone who does not think like you, and having one voice shape the hearts and minds of a people.
Malala Models How to Stand for Justice
Some evangelicals are expressing a political concern that our own country is in the state of such decline today. Author, orator, political theorist, and philosopher, Edmund Burke of London, is often attributed for the quote: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men [and women] to do nothing.” We must be a reading, learning, and writing people. We must be a people who deeply wrestle with the influences, backgrounds, life experiences, heartaches, and struggles of others who are not like us, even when we disagree. We are all responsible for raising our voices when we see evil at work in the world.
The prophet Isaiah warns the people of God:
Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine and champions of mixing drinks, who acquit the guilty for a bribe, but deny justice to the innocent.
What is our answer to all these woes? We must raise our voices!
In her humble posture, Malala calls us to shout! In her own words she speaks, “We are all the sum of the individual choices we make every day of our lives.” I’ve made my choice to stand with Jesus for what is good and right and true and generous and loving in this world. I choose to stand up, take the risk, and be counted as someone who stood for justice because that is what I believe God requires of his people. This is how I glorify God. I choose to stand up, take the risk & stand for justice because that is what I believe God requires. Click To Tweet
In the same way, Malala brings Allah glory. She is a voice crying out of the wilderness to each and every one of us. Wake up! God is on the move. And in the words of Sam Cooke, “It’s been a long time coming, but a change gone come.” She dared to speak. She dared to write. She dares to get an education. She dares to proclaim from the mountains that all girls matter and have a right to the same. For these things and more, I stand #withMalala.