Sunday, October 9, 2011

Three Cups of Tea: One man's mission to bring peace one school at a time

Three Cups of Tea occupied almost every best seller list for over three years and the book became a book club favorite, as well as required reading in many schools.  I read the book several years ago - actually I read some of the chapters and listened to an audio version for part of the book.  For those who do not know the background, in 1993 after a failed attempt to climb K2, the world's second highest mountain, Greg Mortenson became separated from his group and wandered into a remote, poor Pakistanian village.  Ill and malnourished, Greg was taken in by villagers who willingly shared the little they possessed.  Over the weeks of his recovery, Mortenson is moved by the children's desire to learn despite the lack of public education. After his health is regained, Greg returns to the United States and begins a challenging path to raise enough money to build a school in the remote mountain village. 

You will learn much about the culture and mind set of Pakistan through this book.  Recently Mortenson and his foundation have come under scrutiny. Allegations have been made that this book and its successor about Afghanistan are exaggerated - that his accomplishments and successes did not actually happen.  When I heard that I was initially disappointed, especially since I had the opportunity to hear Greg's mother speak at Saint Norbert's College about the foundation's work and the life of Pakistani girls.  But I hold hope that his efforts have had some successes - note the part of the title, one school at a time.  Each and every school that is built and maintained is a success.  And I have to thank Greg and his mother for expanding my understanding of family dynamics within Muslim families, both moderate and Taliban-influenced.  The one statement that I remember most, actually comes from his mother, not from the book.  She said that statistics show that an educated mother, in most cases, will not condone a son becoming a member of the Taliban or any extremist group.  And a son, raised by an educated mother (even an education of just a few years) will be drawn less frequently to such political and religious extremes.  Even a rudimentary education has the result that the family is more accepting of others.  Hatred and fear do not need to rule.

I recently read that Mortenson is being sued because a group of readers feel that they were led astray by his book.  I wonder if they will win?  It makes me sad because I was so moved when I read his book.  I certainly do not believe that his decade of work and resulting ill health were all a scam. Hopefully his actual accomplishments will be acknowledged and the rest resolved.  At this point, I would still recommend the book to any reader who wants to learn more of Pakistan and Afghanistan. 

This week I've reviewed three nonfiction books about places, people, and experiences extremely different from our boundaries of experience.  Obviously, the purpose of each book is to move us to action. It would be wrong to simply read, stand by and do nothing,  For those who have been given much, much is required.  Look around and take notice,  we've been given much.

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