I believe the Christ Spirit still inhabits people today, and I have most recently seen an appearance in a passionate and powerful Muslim girl. Her name is Malala Yousafzai. Mystics are blessed to see the kingdom of God all around us. We have been given eyes to see, without boxing God into our predetermined categories of where God can appear or in whom God can work. I believe the Christ Spirit is working in Malala.
The strength to defeat an enemy with force is how the aggressive types have always acted in every culture. But the Christ Spirit calls for another way. Jesus demonstrated a new way of using warrior energy for good purpose when he challenged us to an impossible act of courage and personal transformation. Jesus said: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you only love those who love you, what reward do you have?”
Enter Malala Yousafzai, the youngest Nobel Laureate ever at age 17, the first Pakistani winner of the peace prize, an activist for female education, and the author of I Am Malala. She created www.malalafund.org in support of educating girls worldwide.
At age 11, Malala was already writing a diary about the importance of educating girls and was first interviewed publicly. By age 14, she had a high profile blog critical of the Taliban’s ban on female education in her region of Pakistan. For this her life was threatened, so she was already imagining how she would respond if her killer showed up. She pictured telling him, “I want your daughters to be educated too.” This, I believe, was her own version of “Love your enemies.” True to their threat, the Taliban stopped her school bus and shot her in the head, also hitting her friend Kainat Ahmed in the hand.
By a miracle of being flown out of the country for surgery in Britain by surgeons who happened to be in Pakistan at the time, Malala survived. At age 16, Malala published her first book (I Am Malala in 2013). She had realized the Taliban withheld education from women because “with education women become more powerful.” This made education even more precious to her.
Her father was speaking out for the rights of women and children, and always told her a girl should have an identity and not be treated less than a boy. This helped her find her own voice to say, “Why should I wait for someone else? Why should I look to the government or army for help? Why don’t I raise my voice?” So she wrote the book and spoke on every media channel she could. She spoke to the United Nations with a passionate and powerful voice. In an interview she said, “I needed to hear my own voice. I had dreams, first to be a doctor, and now to be a good politician, maybe prime minister.”
With the announcing of the Nobel Peace prize, Malala said, “I felt more powerful and courageous to believe in myself and to go forward in this campaign to make sure that every child deserves a quality education. I want to tell children to stand up for their own rights. This award is for all those children whose voices should be heard.”
In essence, she is speaking the message from a Celtic blessing by John O’Donohue, which I believe God created us all to experience: “I want to live the life that I would love, to postpone my dream no longer, but do at last what I came here for, and waste my heart on fear no more.” Shall we follow the lead of this powerful young woman and prophetic leader, let the same Christ Spirit working through her come alive in us, and live that life ourselves? Will we?
For more stories like this see Monks in the World: Seeking God in a Frantic Culture.