LAHORE, Pakistan — Christians across Pakistan are praying for 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai, whose recent attempted murder by the Taliban has sparked widespread rebuke of the country's government for failing to prevent the attack.
“Malala is a light among the shadows of illiteracy, poverty and terrorism,” said a group of more than 75 religious leaders from the Christian, Muslim, Hindu and Sikh religions. “Her work is in the spirit of Islam and all other religions of the world.”
The national Council for Interreligious Dialogue organized a prayer meeting in Lahore under the leadership of its coordinator, Capuchin Franciscan Father Francis Nadeem, and Dominican Father James Channan, head of Lahore’s Peace Center, Fides news agency reported Oct. 15.
On Oct. 9, masked gunmen singled out and shot Yousafzai on a bus full of schoolchildren in Pakistan’s northwestern Swat Valley near the Afghanistan border. A spokesman for the gunmen’s group, Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan, said that they shot her for her advocacy of girls’ education alongside boys and support of Western culture.
Doctors at a Peshawar hospital removed a bullet that passed through her head and stopped in her shoulder. On Oct. 15, she arrived in Britain for specialized medical care and protection from follow-up attacks that the Taliban threatened her with.
Medical officials said she is in stable condition and could make “a good recovery,” The Associated Press reported.
The group of Pakistani religious leaders said they are committed to the growth, education and development of their country’s marginalized religious communities and are against the "Talibanization" of the country.
Two Christian-based non-governmental organizations (NGOs), Life for All and the Masihi Foundation of Pakistan, organized a prayer service in Lahore’s cathedral. Women and children lit candles to show solidarity with the girl.
Rizwan Paul of Life for All told Fides that Malala has become “a symbol of unity and peace.”
“Today she is an inspiration to reiterate the importance of education for all.”
The religious leaders were also critical of Pakistan’s government.
“In opposing the Taliban ideology, Malala has shown more courage than the government of Pakistan,” they said.
Life for All and the Masihi Foundation also invoked the case of Rimsha Masih, a young mentally disabled girl who faces blasphemy charges.
“Rimsha Masih and Malala Yousafzai, both 14-year-olds, are today a symbol of change for Pakistan: They have given to the nation the opportunity to rethink about blasphemy and extremism,” the two groups said.
“For Pakistani society, it is time to choose between a life of fear or a courageous commitment against extremism. The example [of showing courage] was given by two 14-year-old girls.”