Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Read This Book!

Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson

Rarely does one encounter someone who is really, actually, truly making the world a better place. And not just on a small scale. But in this book you meet one: Greg Mortenson.

This book is the saga of how a slacker mountain climber became involved in building schools for the remote villages in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and how his efforts continue to make a difference in that part of the world.

After getting lost coming down off a mountain climb, he is taken in by a remote village in Pakistan. He becomes friends with the people, and, touched by their kindness and their need, promises to come back and build a school. And, with fits and starts, and many problems, he finally does.

From this humble beginning, Greg pulls together some friends and benefactors and starts building more schools. He encounters some "religious" objections at times (the schools admit girls), and he has to deal with some unsavory characters (even getting kidnapped by the Taliban). But as the people come to see that he is not trying to evangelize, and how respectful he is of their customs, he overcomes.

Greg is not a saint, however, and the book makes this very clear. He is a flawed human being, as are we all. Yet the same determination that drove him to scale the worlds highest mountain peaks serves him well here. He doggedly pursues his mission (often to the detriment of his health, safety and family obligations). But schools are being built.

After reading this book, I was struck by the simplicity (and low cost) of his efforts, which show those people that Americans do care, and do want to help, and we're not all interested in bombing them. Education is the best enemy of religious fanaticism - Al Qaida, the Taliban, etc, recruit the uneducated poor from these areas. And they tend to run the only schools around - which are hotbeds of anti-Western rhetoric and propaganda. By building independent schools, which teach only school subjects, Greg's efforts are doing more against Islamic-funded terrorism than all the military offenses we've ever undertaken. And educating girls, too!

The Central Asia Institute is the non-profit organization that arose from Greg's vision. It is one group I plan to support whole-heartedly!!

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