The story of 15 year old Malala Yousafzai has touched the hearts of many people around the world. Malala lives in the Swat Valley in north Pakistan. In defiance of the rules imposed by the Taliban, Malala attended her father’s school, and encouraged other girls to do the same. On 9 October a Taliban gunman attempted to assassinate Malala as she was returning home on the school bus. She was very seriously injured and received emergency surgery in Pakistan before being flown to England. As a result of the expert care she has received at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham she is making an amazing recovery. We pray she will be fully restored.
For some years Malala has spoken for women’s rights within her community, and especially the right of girls to receive a school education. She is a remarkable example of outstanding ability and courage. Malala knew the risks she faced from violent men in her remote community yet she refused to be intimidated by them and be silent. She has spoken publicly, written a blog for the BBC and made a film to highlight the plight of girls growing up in the Swat Valley. This has brought her national and international recognition. The man who shot her was determined to silence her but, hopefully, his evil action will only hasten the day when all girls in Pakistan will be free to go to school and enjoy other freedoms.
During his ministry Jesus challenged the religious leaders of his day who were also imposing man made rules on people. They were more concerned about their own power and prosperity than they were about the people. Jesus was very different. Great crowds came to listen to him and he healed many people. Seeing his popularity growing the religious leaders decided to silence him. They brought false charges against him and handed him over to the Romans who ordered that he should be crucified.
How did Jesus respond to his enemies? He did not gather his followers together to fight and defend him. Instead he continued to speak the truth and did not retaliate. When he was dying on the Cross he prayed for his enemies, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” The Roman Empire fell many years ago, but today people of many nations continue to find new life through Jesus as they receive him as their Saviour and Lord.