It’s a good positive sign of our times when the two who just won the Nobel Peace Prize are recognized for working so hard for children’s rights.
Any society that cannot protect its children should never dare to call itself civilized.
Malala Yousafezi, 17, of Pakistan; and Kailash Satyarthi, 60, of India were both honored – Yousafezi for advocating for girls’ rights to an education and Satyarthi for fighting against the vicious exploitation of children in India and elsewhere.
Yousafezi was riding a bus three years ago when a Taliban thug stepped on the bus, asked, “Which one is Malala?,” then stepped up to her and shot her in the head. Fortunately, she recovered in a Birmingham, England hospital. She has developed into an extraordinarily articulate, poised, confident and passionate spokesperson for children’s rights, especially the rights of girls to read books and get an education.
She has spoken in person with world leaders, including President Barack Obama, and she addressed the United Nations with a powerful speech. Ban Ki-moon, the U.N. secretary general, summed it up nicely when he said of Yousafezi: “With her courage and determination, Malala has shown what terrorists fear most – a girl with a book.”
That is exactly right. Terrorists and other religious extremists cannot bear the light of free enquiry or scrutiny because their ideologies are based on power games, fear, ignorance and superstition – not to mention the cruel suppression of girls and women.
Satyarthi has fought child exploitation (in particular, child slavery) for 30 years, and his efforts are attributed with saving 70,000 children in India from horrific bondage at sweat shops. His organization, Bachpan Bachao Andolan (translated as Save the Children Mission) has made strides in exposing the exploiters of children and in getting people to boycott companies that use child slave labor. It’s estimated there are about 28 million children, ages 6-14, working under oppressive conditions in India and many more elsewhere in the world. In some cases, the children, when not working, are forced to live in airless rooms or mine shafts. They are often beaten, burned with cigarettes or tied down and hit with stones if they disobey or try to run away. The same unthinkable evil is directed at girls and boys kidnapped, sold and forced to work in the despicable sex trade. Sometimes it’s difficult to remember this is the 21st Century, not the Dark Ages of Cruelty.
It is interesting Yousafezi is a Muslim who said a book about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a big early influence on her thinking. Satyarthi, a Hindu, said he was very much inspired by the writings of India independence leader Mohandas Ghandi. King said he learned the philosophy of non-violence mainly from Ghandi.
And like those two great men, Satyarthi and Yousafezi are both advocates of non-violence, believing enlightenment, knowledge, good works and human decency are the lights we need to lead us out of the darkness that surrounds it.
If only others in the world, embarked on their murderous madness, would listen and learn those bright lessons.