Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Three Cups of Tea

“If we truly want a legacy of peace for our children, we need to understand that this is a war that will ultimately be won with books, not with bombs.” - Greg Mortenson, “He Fights Terror with Books,”April 6, 2003

My 11th book of 2009 is Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson. This book describes the philanthropic efforts of an American mountain climber who was rescued and nursed back to health in 1993 by a Pakistani village after his attempt to summit K2 in the Himalayan Mountains. Upon leaving this village, he promised to return and build the village a much needed school. Not only did he return to build that school, as of 2008 he has built 78 schools in both Pakistan and Afghanistan, serving 28,000 students. To understand what he had to overcome to be so successful, reading the book is essential.

Reading this book prompted me to learn more about Islam, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Sure, in America, we hear every day how horrible it is there and how all the people are America-haters on jihad - or war against Christians, to put it very simply. This could not be farther from the truth. In Pakistan, family comes first. Well, second, I guess, after God, known as Allah. But family is much more sacred there then here. And, Pakistan citizens do not support the terrorist extremists such as the Taliban nor Al-Qadea. This is one reason why schools like Mortenson's are so critical. If not given the chance to attend schools teaching academic subjects, children in poor, rural areas can more easily be recruited by the extremist groups to attend madrassas, where terrorist training sometimes poses as education.

While I firmly believe that Mortenson is doing a good thing and helping Pakistan immensely, while reading this book I also had to question whether such modern influence is always for the best. Who says that our way is better? Even in his book, Mortenson quotes passages from a book he'd read - Ancient Futures by Helena Norberg-Hodge. "...Western develpoment workers should not blindly impose modern improvements on ancient cultures... industrialized countries have lessons to learn from people like those in the Himalayan mountains about building sustainable societies. Community and a close relationship with the land can enrich human life beyond all comparison with material wealth or technological sophistication. Another way is possible." Norberg-Hodge also writes in her book (quoting the king of Bhutan in the Himalayas) "...the true measure of a nation's success is not gross national product, but gross national happiness". (Reading things like this really makes you wonder if America is as successful as it wants to believe, doesn't it?)

I guess it all comes down to education. The modern world is here to stay. Hopefully, the small villages will be able to embrace the modern without the heartache that is often present in affluent America. If anything, America has more to learn from Pakistan then we can teach them. Thanks to Greg Mortenson for paving the way.

Other Amazing links:
The Girl Effect - don't miss this one!
Pennies for Peace
Central Asia Institute

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