Three Cups of Tea — One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace . . . Once School at a Time
Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin, 2006, Penguin, New York.
The easy answer is to say that Three Cups of Tea is a book about using education to combat the seeds of terrorism in Pakistan and throughout the Muslim world. This is a nice nutshell of an answer, but it hardly does justice to the myriad of issues raised in the book. A fascinating read, to be sure, set in one of the most remote and breathtakingly beautiful areas of the world, there are several points one must consider after reading it.
1. Ignorance is the root of poverty.
2. Ignorance is the root of bigotry.
3. One person can make a huge difference.
4. War is almost never the answer.
5. Education is much much cheaper than war.
6. One must respect another person’s perspective before one can ever hope to change or improve it.
7. The Media (mainstream or otherwise) is a very poor source of information.
8. A Muslim is not a Mujahedin is not a Taliban.
9. Most people just want to live peacefully despite what their governments do.
10. Countries are not ethnic groups and ethnic groups are not determined by color, location, or religion.
11. Not all ignorant people are stupid, and not all stupid people are ignorant.
Finding myself strapped for time today, I don’t have time to expound on the above points. But I do suggest that everyone read this book. As a Christian, my duty is to bring the light of Christianity to people around the world. I, personally, would not have participated in Muslim practices in order to do what Greg Mortenson did. However, it is interesting that no one mistook the respect he showed to Muslim beliefs as a devout belief in them, but loved him that he would go so far to respect them as people that he would not step on their beliefs. Whether I think he was right to do this or not is beside the point. It worked for what he was doing. And I, if I were so endowed with financial means and did not have 100 of my own similar projects to fund, would be right there supporting him.
At San Jose State University, a lot of my friends were from Iran. I am saddened that I lost touch with them. I have known others who fled Iran during the upheavals of the 70’s when the Shah was deposed and replace by the Ayatollah. All ot these people were kind, generous and friendly to me. Many of them practice Islam, and none of them tried to make me into a Muslim or every talked of killing the infidel. While i understand and appreciate that there is a jihad in progress, I also understand that this jihad comes from ignorance and indoctrination, much in the same way that militant anti-Muslim hatred comes from a narrow-minded and often heretical quasi-Christian indoctrination.
Hatred is easy. It takes very little education or thought. Love is much more complicated, because it must overcome societal stubbornness as well as personal selfishness. Not many would be willing to step into the cross hairs as Greg Mortenson did without regard for personal risk. Not many are even willing go fore-go a latte to buy a book for someone they will never meet. Half the battle in the war against ignorance is understanding the problem. The book certainly brings home the information. The other half of the battle is to actually step out of selfish mode and do something about it. This takes, not just a few dollars thrown at the cause, but an actual commitment to thinking about others and how to help those that need a leg up. It takes understanding that government funds rarely solve anything because they never get to the people who really need them in the ways that will really help. A little money and a well-conceived plan of action will do what a lot of money and an ignorant bureaucracy cannot.
Finally, the book makes clear that the people of Pakistan were not without desire to be educated. They did everything within their power to help build schools and to promote them. The children showed a hunger to learn. The impoverished in this country need to understand that, not only are people not willing to give aid where “tax dollars” are supposed to be the answer, but people who could actually help (i.e., not a handful of celebrities who just throw a few fund-raisers) aren’t about to waste time and money on people who will not be invested in their own improvement and who will be a good return on their investment.