“Don’t be afraid to speak,” writes Joan Chittister. “Be afraid of what will happen to the whole truth if you don’t.” Fourteen year-old Malala Yousufzai certainly lives those words. As I write this she is in a hospital in Great Britain “resting comfortably, but not out of the woods yet,” the victim of a murder attempt by the Taliban for her outspoken advocacy for girls’ education. Despite warnings, this fearless Pakistani teenager spoke her truth over and over again. And she spoke it in a climate of terror, in a region of Pakistan under the control of the dreaded Taliban who grabbed her when she left school and shot her. I can’t get her out of my mind. I am in awe of this raw courage, this purity of heart that sees a wrong and names it—out loud. Where did her courage come from, the courage to speak your truth even if it means taking a bullet to the head?
Certainly she puts me to shame. When I think of how careful I am about speaking out about the church’s treatment of women and about its stance on homosexuality, it’s hard to sleep at night. And I’m not facing death…just censure. And I’m a monastic, my reason to be is to speak truth to the institutional church.
This young Pakistani woman has hooked my conscience. She keeps asking, “Why are you afraid to speak your truth?” I have no good answer. How about you?