Friday, February 01, 2008

Three Cups of Tea is a great book that is essential reading for every American who wishes to know about the people of Pakistan and Afghanistan and how we can improve our relationship. If every American had the philosophy of the author, Greg Mortenson, we would have a better chance for peace in that troubled part of the world and Americans would be loved rather than hated. Military action against the Taliban and al-Qaida was necessary but there is much more to be done to establish a lasting peace. Greg Mortenson’s book has the answer.

Mortenson is a nurse, by training, who had a passion for mountain climbing. He tackled one of the most challenging mountains in the world, K2. This mountain is thought to be even more difficult to climb than Mt. Everest. Mortenson attempted the climb but failed and almost died in the attempt. He was saved by a mountain man of Northern Pakistan and nursed back to health by the people in the remote village of Korphe. After Mortensen regained his health he promised the people he would give them what they wanted most which was a school for their children. He not only kept this promise, but he has devoted his life to building schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. His schools have had an emphasis on the education of girls which has been forbidden by the Taliban. With the help of Mortenson the will of the people has prevailed to allow all children to be educated.

After much struggle and effort, Mortenson was able to establish the Central Asia Institute through philanthropic support from people in the US. He has used the money to accomplish his goal of building the schools against overwhelming odds. The greatest reward for his incredible effort has been the fulfillment of his dream to educate the children in this deprived area of the world.

His key to success was to become one of the people rather than convert them to a different philosophy. He prayed with them as a Muslim and became one with their family. Mortenson learned to respect their ways. There is a saying of the people, that the first cup of tea you take with them you are stranger. If you have a second cup you are an honored guest in their home and with the third cup you become family. Mortenson became family and is now loved by the people of the villages of Northern Pakistan and Afghanistan as a Saint.

As Americans we must learn that we cannot change these people but must accept their ways to become their friends. We need to follow the example of Greg Mortenson to obtain the respect of the poor people in this volatile part of the world. Education will be the greatest defense against a resurgence of the Taliban and will eliminate the breeding ground for terrorist.

Mortenson’s hero was Mother Teresa. Like Mother Teresa, Mortenson deserves a Nobel Prize for his phenomenal accomplishments. This book is a great read and is a testimony to the power of the humanitarian spirit.


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