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International Women's Day

The cause for women has come a long way, but it has further to go.

At the risk of appearing to mix my moral issues I want to take you back to 1963. In 1963 at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama four young black girls were killed by a bomb at the hands of the Ku Klux Klan. Then a year later, sweeping reform to equal rights passed with national support in the culminating Civil Rights Act of 1964. Although many people through America saw the aftermath of the bombing, there was one young 8-year-old girl watching close by who would later become the Secretary of State. To make matters worse for her, one of the young children killed was her friend. Who is this Secretary of State? Condoleezza Rice.

I will come back to Rice shortly. Today I was listening to a book which highlighted the need for women’s rights. The author (Ayan Hirsi Ali) was born in Somalia and talked specifically about women in many Muslim Majority countries being treated poorly, unequally, and even as property. Muslim’s make up nearly two billion people throughout the world, but not even half of them live in Western Democracy’s that have championed women’s rights for decades.

What I write is not to imply “All Muslim’s treat women poorly.” That is logically fallacious. I use the example because it was in the book I was reading this morning. Moreover, as a Pastor I have sometimes seen religion used as a way of justifying negative cultural behaviors (“God is on our side, therefore we can do action A”) More often than not I believe it has been the other way around, but still. Examples like what I am reading are to show that the there is still much reform left on the journey to equal treatment for women throughout the world. Just imagine how many young women are waiting to be valued enough to be given an education. It is girls in waiting that would have an inspiring example in Condoleezza Rice.

Rice who is among my favorite leader-thinkers offers penetrating analysis of global issues, can get in the proverbial “ring” with the likes of Vladimir Putin, and shows decency towards those on the ‘other side’ of political issues. There is much to admire in Rice.

In her book she cites a story about a leader in a Muslim Majority nation. After intense meetings with her Male interlocuter who would not look her in the eye or shake her hand (which is not untypical for male to female relations in Muslim Majority nations), he asked her to follow him into his office.

There, he closed the door and asked Rice if she would meet his daughter. The daughter had learned of Rice’s beating the odds as a young black girl in the south who rose to become Secretary of State. This gave the girl much hope in her own nation to try and beat the odds given to her.

In Rice’s Memoirs she recounts how young black children were not allowed to take swim lessons. Even more, she remembers the integration of schools in Alabama. She still remembers how the Governor refused to let black students enter. If it had not been for the National Guard answering to the President, integration could have been delayed there for a little longer. It is hard to believe all of this happened as recently as the 60’s.

There are young girls around the world, not least of which in Muslim Majority nations, just waiting for reform. Where we can help, we should.

Happy (Belated) International Women’s Day!

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