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Education is Key: Pakistani Diplomat

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Ziauddin Yousafzai speaks in Waterloo Ziauddin Yousafzai speaks in Waterloo


It is better to live a day in dignity than a thousand years in subjugation.”


That stirring declaration was made in Waterloo last night by the father of the young woman Malala (now 18) who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.


Pakistani diplomat Ziauddin Yousafzai has a special link with Canada- he is the honorary chair of Global Peace Centre Canada, which formally came into existence in 2015. This was his fourth visit to the area, and the first for his wife Toor Pekai, who accompanied him on stage to answer questions.


They are best known as the parents of Nobel Peace Laureate Malala Yousafzai, who protested against the Taliban for the education rights of children (especially for Pakistani girls). Her attempted murder by the Taliban terrorists catapulted her to worldwide fame.


In his address, Yousafzai said “in this small world if we want to fight against terrorism the most powerful weapon is education. The cause of education is to make sure every child on this planet has a right to education. It is the one thing that builds the whole fabric of life.”


Toor Pekai expressed it this way. “If you are in a dark hall you don't know which way to exit. Education is light and it shows us the way.”


Yousafzai, who is a UN Special Advisor on Global Education, emphasized the need for girls to be educated but he also stressed the need to make sure boys “are taught in the curriculum of schools that men and women are equal. Men are being unfair to women- they should learn human dignity.”


He had some harsh words for the media in general. “We are very lazy about global issues. Everybody has an agenda, including the media. We should always be critical about what is being shown. Media generally sells news, and bad news is sold at a very high price."

After his formal address, he engaged in conversation with Dr. Neil Arya, Chairman of Global Peace Centre Canada. Arya told me in an interview the Centre is applying for charitable status. Two local professors associated with the Centre, Dr. Lowell Ewert from Conrad Grebel College and Dr. Tim Donais from WLU, visited Pakistan in February, when they met with officials at five universities. The Centre is planning a similar visit from Pakistani university professors here in Waterloo this September, and scholarships are already underway to enable students from that country to study at WLU. The initiative to create the Centre and develop scholarships was sparked by Yousafzai, who, during an earlier visit to Waterloo, asked local professors involved in peace studies what they were really doing for peace.


On the visit this month, Yousafzai was speaking to a capacity audience at The Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI). In an interview for Sun News Miami afterwards, he told me the state of the world a generation from now "Depends on us. If we work hard for peace and harmony I believe things will be more positive.


'In the coming years more women will be in politics” and he believes this will serve to lower international tensions. “If you look at every conflict men are involved. The concept of masculinity needs to be redefined.”

Photo with this story copyright C. J. Cunningham


For more on Global Peace Centre Canada, visit their website:

Readers of this newspaper will also want to consult a book review I published this week, Lessons From Diplomacy.

The direct link is:












Clifford Cunningham

Dr. Clifford Cunningham is a planetary scientist. He earned his PhD in the history of astronomy at the University of Southern Queensland, and has undergraduate degrees in science and ancient history from the University of Waterloo. In 2014 he was named a contributor to Encyclopedia Britannica. He is the author of 14 books on asteroids and the history of science. In 1999 he appeared on the TV show Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Asteroid 4276 was named in his honor in 1990 by the International Astronomical Union based on the recommendation of its bureau located at Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

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