Exactly 50 years after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. became history’s youngest Nobel Peace Prize laureate, an even younger activist — a 17-year-old Pakistani girl — received the same honor. On Sunday, Malala Yousafzai, now 20 and known around the world for advocating for girls, stood in the pulpit of King’s church in Atlanta and appealed for peace and understanding.
Malala, who survived a murder attempt by a Taliban extremist in 2012, came to Ebenezer Baptist Church as part of a U.S. tour before she begins studies at Oxford University in England. She said as a young girl in a small Pakistani town, she knew nothing of Christianity or Judaism. But in school, she said, she read about King and tried to follow his call to “respect the humanity of every man, woman and child.”
When she was named a Nobel laureate on the 50th anniversary of King’s honor, she said, “I hoped to honor his legacy that day and every day.”
In what she said was her first time speaking in a church, Malala told the congregation that poverty, war and discrimination are preventing 130 million girls worldwide from receiving an education.
“We cannot afford to lose these girls,” she said.
Malala received a warm welcome at Ebenezer, especially for comments about the racial profiling of Muslims, police shootings of unarmed civilians, the display of Confederate emblems during a recent demonstration in Virginia, and President Donald Trump’s refusal “to stand up against hate.”
Some days, she said, “I’m weary,” but she recalled a question asked of King late in his life: Where do we go from here?
“His answer — and mine — is we go forward for justice. We go forward with hope. We go forward in peace.”