The front page of this Sunday's NYTimes features an article by Elizabeth Bumiller titled, "Unlikely Tutor Giving Military Afghan Advice." Bumiller tells how U.S. Military commanders in Afghanistan are turning for advice to Greg Mortenson, author of the bestseller, Three Cups of Tea, which if you haven't yet read, should definitely go on your reading list.
What the headline doesn't show, but the article reveals, is that this significant developing situation involving high powered, high profile men and impacting military strategies in a major international war is profoundly influenced by women and girls—in a word, ezers!
The article reports that Mortenson and his Central Asia Institute are credited with constructing "more than 130 schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan, mostly for girls." Mortenson is convinced (as are many others, including Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn of Half the Sky, another must-read book) that educating girls is the best way to fight terrorism, reduce poverty, improve child and maternal health, lower mortality rates, combat trafficking, and benefit communities in countless other ways. Mortenson has built his reputation and his career on this thesis. His expertise in understanding, collaborating, and partnering with Afghan tribal leaders (and he tells inspiring stereotype-shattering stories of remarkable Afghan men) that is now so valued by the military has come from his sacrificial and unstoppable advocacy for Afghan girls.
How the military noticed Mortenson in the first place involves ezers too. Their wives were reading Three Cups of Tea in their book clubs and sending copies to their commander husbands, urging them to read it too.
I find so many aspects of this story heartening: the present and potential benefits of educating girls, the influence of women who are willing to speak up, the willingness of men to listen and value what women are saying (how many men—especially those who are fighting a war—will stop to read a book from their wife's book club?), and the possibility that new, constructive, and peaceful solutions that will benefit all may be introduced into a war that continues daily to cause destruction and the loss of life on both sides.
Especially I love how this story underscores in a variety of ways the importance of and the need for the Blessed Alliance!
O God, early in the morning I cry to you, Help me to pray And to concentrate my thoughts on you: I cannot do this alone. In me there is darkness, But with you there is light; I am lonely, but you do not leave me; I am feeble in heart, but with you there is help; I am restless, but with you there is peace. In me there is bitterness, but with you there is patience; I do not understand your ways, But you know the way for me ... Restore me to liberty, And enable me to live now That I may answer before you and before me. Lord,whatever this day may bring, Your name be praised.
—Dietrich Bonhoeffer, (1906-1945)
Bonhoeffer was a crucial leader in the German underground movement and a determined and courageous opponent of the Nazi regime from its first days in 1933—a commitment of conscience before God which ultimately cost his life. "He raised the first and virtually lone voice for church resistance to Hitler's persecution of Jews when he declared that the church must not simply 'bandage the victims under the wheel, but jam the spoke in the wheel itself.'"
I am reading Gary Haugen's book, Good News About Injustice: A Witness of Courage in a Hurting World. Haugen is President and CEO of International Justice Mission, "a human rights agency that secures justice for victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression. IJM lawyers, investigators and aftercare professionals work with local governments to ensure victim rescue, to prosecute perpetrators and to strengthen the community and civic factors that promote functioning public justice systems."
His book is a well-written, honest look at the horrors of injustice in our world. Readers will want to buckle up. But Haugen is not merely exposing evil. He is also asserting an unbending hope in the God of justice who intends for his image bearers to "jam the spokes in the wheels" of evil. Haugen issues a necessary call to action aimed at all believers both individually and corporately.
As Christians, we need to educate ourselves about what's happening today and then we need to act. Haugen's book is a good place to start. He leaves me (and I suspect you too) asking what I can do to be part of a global effort to both "bandage and recover the victims under the wheel" and "jam the spokes in the wheel itself."
I'd love to hear the thoughts of others who have read his book. What other books would you recommend and why?