The world seems caught up in an endless cycle of attack and retribution. Whether on an intimate, national or global sectarian level, mankind seems hopelessly drawn toward answering violence with violence. But there is another way. My colleague from British Columbia, Anna Bowness-Park, explains how one young girl’s example of forgiveness is having a powerful healing effect and leading us to peace. Here’s Anna…
Is there a way to heal the effects of violence in our communities?
2014 Nobel Peace Prize co-winner, Malala Yousafzai, is not only convinced there is, but she lives what she believes. At just 15 years old, she survived a brutal attack by a young “Talib” who shot her in the head on a school bus in Pakistan. Her crime – in his eyes – was having the audacity, as a girl, to want to work toward an education!
When speaking at the United Nations in 2013, she said she knew her life was threatened long before the attack, and wondered what she would do if faced by a man with a gun. She remembered thinking to herself:
“If he comes to kill me, what do you do, Malala? I thought I would take my shoe and hit him. Then I thought, ‘if you hit a man with a shoe, you would be no different to the Talib. You must not treat others with that much cruelty and that much harshly.’”
In this description of her first reaction to the Taliban threat, we may think it merely the self-defence response of a child. But in her culture, to throw a shoe at someone is a mark of deep disrespect. What Malala was really saying is that disrespect was not on her agenda. She wanted to have a conversation – to show respect for her attacker, rather than contempt and hatred.