Editorial: Malala receives Nobel Peace Prize

This year’s Nobel Peace Prize will be seen as a historic choice for years to come. Among a record 278 candidates for the prize, a 17-year-old youth, the youngest Nobel Prize winner in history, was selected.

The winner is Malala Yousafzai from Pakistan. Two Octobers ago, Malala was shot in the head by a group of armed Islamic extremists known as “Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan” (TTP). It was a miracle she survived.

Although she was named as a nominee for the Peace Prize last year, some voices of concern called her “too young” for the award. But it was undoubtedly her youthfulness that was the key to her selection. People around the world were astonished by the fact that she stuck to her strong convictions, despite the threats to her life.

Malala shares the prize with Kailash Satyarthi, 60, an Indian national who has been devoted to the problem of child labor. Explaining its decision, the Norwegian Nobel Committee said that they have been chosen for the prize “for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.”

On July 12, 2013, the day she turned 16, Malala vividly conveyed the culmination of her struggle in a speech given at United Nations Headquarters.

“Let us wage a glorious struggle against illiteracy, poverty, and terrorism,” she said. “Let us pick up our books and our pens. They are the most powerful weapons.”

Her speech, concluding with the words “Education first,” was met with tremendous applause.

A vast number of children in this world are unable to receive an education due to war or poverty. In particular, there is an entrenched prejudice against educating girls.

The Taliban, the group that shot Malala, has made repeated attacks on schools. Education which emphasizes the preciousness of each life can turn back the brutality which shows no respect for life at all. Malala has stressed that the extremists are fearful of education.

Young people have been drawn to serve as mercenary soldiers for a group calling itself the Islamic State, which now controls parts of Iraq and Syria. Members of this group not only engage in combat, they take part in the human trafficking of kidnapped women.

There are also many children who cannot escape the chain of poverty that has spanned generations as a result of a lack of education, even when no conflict exists.

This plight, though, is not the story it should be in far-off countries. Japan, an economic power, provides the blessings of education, but it is clear that poverty and inequality prevent some from reaching for a better life here, too. This is the hard reality of today’s Japan.

As arduous as the task may be, it is essential to eliminate war, conflict, poverty, discrimination, and exploitation in both developed and developing nations.

In the end, without books and pens, human beings cannot construct the foundation of peace in their hearts. This apparently is the message conveyed by this year’s Peace Prize.

Are the adults of the world making sufficient efforts? Not hardly, it seems. The selection for this Peace Prize presents an ironic fact as well: granting the prize to a girl will not realize peace.

Malala should not be seen as a special child. The real task is, how can tens of thousands of Malalas, even hundreds of millions of Malalas, be nurtured on this Earth? This is the great duty of the adults of our world.

(Originally published on October 11, 2014)