By now you’ve no doubt heard of Malala Yousafzai, the 14-year-old Pakistani girl shot in the head by the Taliban for supporting education for girls. What happened to Malala has become a cause célèbre for the treatment of females around the world, and particularly in Muslim-majority nations.
According to the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative, Pakistan’s primary school enrollment is 76 percent for boys, but only 57 percent for girls, and Pakistani girls are frequently the victims of discrimination. Only 40 percent of Pakistani girls age 15 or younger are able to read and write.
Malala was flown to the West for medical treatment, and the early signs are encouraging, though recovery promises to be long and difficult. Certainly we Christians can heartily join in prayer for this brave young woman, who risked her life for a vital cause, the dignity of women.
Sadly, Malala is not alone. There are many threats every day against the lives and opportunities of females around the globe. Most of us have heard of the 40 million “missing girls” in China due to that country’s hideous one-child policy. It would be nice (if that’s the right word) to chalk this up to perverse Communist lunacy, but it goes on all around the world. For example, Darrow Miller in his important book, Nurturing the Nations, reveals that South Korea has 30,000 fewer girls born each year because of the pitiless use of sex-selective abortion. Asia, according to the book Unnatural Selection by Mara Hvistendahl, has 163 million more boys than girls.
Unfortunately, this kind of deadly discrimination has an ancient pedigree. John Ortberg discusses it in in his eye-opening new book, Who Is This Man? The Unpredictable Impact of the Inescapable Jesus. “In the ancient Greco-Roman world,” Ortberg writes, “there was a huge shortage of women — about 140 men for every 100 women. What happened to the other women? They were left to die when they got born the wrong sex.”
One first-century husband wrote to his pregnant wife, “If you are delivered of a child [before I come home] if it is a boy, keep it; if it’s a girl, discard it.” As Ortberg summarizes, “By the law of Romulus in Rome, a father was required to raise all healthy male children, but only the first-born female; all others were disposable.” He quotes the Greek poet Posidippus, who said, “Everyone raises a son even if he is poor but exposes a daughter even if he is rich.”
Yet the global outrage expressed over the attempted murder of a brave girl in Pakistan speaks to the undeniable fact that old prejudices have begun to change — and the Person most responsible for this is a once-obscure carpenter from Nazareth. On this point, Ortberg quotes Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who said, “Jesus gave women human dignity. ... Prior to Jesus, women were regarded as inferior beings, religiously speaking.” Jesus’ inclusiveness, of course, reflected Genesis, which tells us that human beings, both male and female, are created in the image of God.
Our friend Chuck Colson never tired of telling us that worldview matters. A worldview that denies that females have equal dignity and worth — that fails to see them as created in God’s image — leads to predictable consequences, such as the shooting of a brave young lady in Pakistan.
Our task as Christians is not only to support and pray for such people, but to spread the gospel and the invigorating biblical worldview that goes with it. We must, as Kent Hughes, the former senior minister of College Church, always said, “believe what we believe.” Let’s put the good news into practice in every sphere of life.
Eric Metaxas is a co-host of BreakPoint Radio and a best-selling author whose biographies, children's books, and popular apologetics have been translated into more than a dozen languages.
BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.
Publication date: October 30, 2012