It was a delight to hear the voice of Malala Yousafzai on the BBC World Service this morning. I’d been wondering how the 15-year-old would fare after the multiple surgeries she’s had in Birmingham, England – the latest conducted just after the video message – since being shot in the head in the Swat valley by the Taliban on Oct. 9 last year for her campaign on behalf of girls’ education in Pakistan.
So I was surprised. Hearing her speak from her hospital bed in Birmingham gave me a rush of joy. And I was surprised at what a lift it was for me. There was the same lilt in her voice as before the shooting, and the same quiet, even joyful, determination to continue here campaign for a cause that is so crucial here in Pakistan. The shooting was dreadful in itself, and it was widely experienced as dreadful for the state of the country.
YouTube continues to be blocked in Pakistan, so I’ve not seen the video, but simply hearing and reading her words is enough:
Malala begins with a back-from-the-dead greeting that is limpidly fresh: “Today you can see that I am alive. I can speak, I can see you, I can see everyone, and I am getting better day by day.”
Then, so characteristically of Muslim devotion in Pakistan, Malala moves to the religious heart of her experience: “It’s just because of the prayers of people. Because all people – men, women, children – all of them have prayed for me. And because of all these prayers God has given me this new life – a second life.” Here is spiritual and human gratitude expressed with transparency and depth.
Then comes the reaffirmation of her vocation, her mission, again with utterly convincing simplicity: “And I want to serve. I want to serve the people. I want every girl, every child, to be educated. For that reason we have organized the Malala Fund.”
Malala is on her way back. Thanks be to God.