We know all too well that many of the world's religions--including Christianity--have oppressed women. They have perpetuated for centuries the myth of masculine superiority that supports patriarchy in its multiple manifestations. So yesterday when a woman--a Methodist minister--stood before the congregation where Sandy and I were worshiping and prayed for the recovery of Malala Yousafzai, my heart was warmed.
If you don't know Malala Yousafzai's story, here's the brief version:
Yousafzai was born and raised in Pakistan's Swat Valley, a region in the northwestern part of the country adjoining Afghanistan. Taliban fighters from Afghanistan have streamed into the region since the U.S. intervention in Afghanistan in 2001. Control of the Swat Valley has passed back and forth between the Taliban and the Pakistani military. A large portion of the American "drone war" has been waged in the Swat Valley against Afghan Taliban leaders who have taken refuge there.
In 2009, when Yousafzai was eleven, the Taliban ordered the closing of schools offering education to girls, including Yousafzai's school, a private school operated by her father. She responded by blogging for the BBC about life under the Taliban. That same year, a New York Times documentary (available here) featured Yousafzai and her father. With resistance to Taliban control of the Swat Valley increasing, many girls (including Yousafzai) returned to school, although many female-only schools had already been destroyed.
Last week, on October 9, while Yousafzai was returning home from school, a Taliban gunman boarded her school bus, called her out by name, and shot her in the head and neck. She survived and was taken to a military hospital in Peshawar in critical condition. A Taliban spokesman has stated that if she lives, she will be targeted again.
Today Yousafzai was flown to England for treatment at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, a hospital where many British soldiers wounded in Afghanistan have been treated.
Joining the millions of Pakistanis who are praying for Malala could be a good step toward exorcising the demons of patriarchy in both Islam and Christianity.