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Better Than Bombs and Bullets PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jim Jordal   
Tuesday, 26 October 2010


By Jim Jordal

In the midst of the carnage of war in Afghanistan and massive suffering in its much more populous neighbor, Pakistan, there is a rising revolution of hope and a renewal of human dignity taking place. The "magic bullet" is education, especially that of girls and young women who have been held in virtual serfdom for centuries by religious traditionalism and a male-dominated culture.

In the sequel to his earlier Three Cups of Tea, adventurer and school-builder Greg Mortenson in Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace With Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan, carries on his work of altruism and cultural advancement in the most isolated areas of both nations. His work has earned international acclaim, with Three Cups of Tea now being required reading for all military officers enrolled in counterinsurgency operations at the Pentagon.

The story begins with a gripping account of 5 year-old Nasreen Baig, who is the first girl ever to attend school in a small village in remote Pakistan where women were traditionally not allowed to learn to read or write. Her dream was to become a maternal health-care worker, a vocation she chose after watching governmental health care teams on their annual trips to the isolated villages. But before she could complete her studies her supportive mother died and she had to drop out of school to care for her blind father and four siblings.

When her father remarried, her new stepmother harassed her continuously as she attempted to renew her studies by candlelight. But she persevered and finally graduated from the equivalent of high school, after which Mortenson’s Central Asia Institute offered her a scholarship. But her parents had now betrothed her to a handsome, lazy young man who saw her as little more than a household servant. Unfortunately, the new mother-in-law feared that she might also be deprived of the labor of a new daughter-in-law, and so brought the matter to the all-male village council. They quickly decided that Nasreen must reject the scholarship, thereby consigning her to a life of virtual slavery common to women in that rural culture.

During the next 10 years Nasreen herded goats and sheep in the mountains, hauled water in cans, gathered firewood and tended the crops. She also bore three children, yet never lost her dream. After a change in membership the village council finally relented and allowed Nasreen to continue her schooling and to proceed toward her degree.

You might think she would be bitter over her experiences. Not so! Nasreen says that she learned patience and compassion for the poor through her experience, and has no regrets.

The way to peace is not through bombs and bullets, nor is it destroying a native culture that has been in place for thousands of years. Nor is it napalming villages in order to save them, as we did in Viet Nam. As one old proverb says: "War does not determine who is right, but only who is left." That’s why education is better than bombs and bullets. War destroys the body; education nourishes the soul and spirit.

But the military/industrial complex warned against by President Eisenhower several generations ago lumbers on. It crawls over and devours peoples and nations having done little more than to resist destruction of their cultures and livelihoods by the insatiable greed of the global economic machine for cheap raw materials and markets. If native peoples do not yield quietly to these demands they face manufactured situations where the "threat" of indigenous uprisings allows justification for military intervention by the global colossus.

God’s way to peace is not through war and conquest: it’s through love and obedient service by the "have" people and nations to the "have-nots." When the nations stand before God at the Judgment of the Nations (Matt. 25:31-46) the criteria will be service to those who were hungry, naked, imprisoned, ignorant, and oppressed. And it will not be words that count, but actions in favor of those whom the Lord loves—the downtrodden, silent, poor, compliant, voiceless of the earth.

How long will it take for us to recognize the simple truth that love conquers power, justice overcomes evil, and the still-small-voice of God indicates the way forward for humankind?