by Mary Lou Kownacki, OSB
Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace
“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?