An Adventist leader in Europe has praised the world’s youngest Nobel Peace Prize laureate for her “incredible courage” amid her efforts to support the education of girls and women in her native Pakistan.
Malala Yousafzai, 17, was awarded the joint 2014 Nobel Peace Prize on Wednesday with Indian child rights activist Kailash Satyarthi at an Oslo ceremony attended by King Harald V of Norway.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee applauded both laureates as "champions of peace."
Bruno Vertallier, president of the Inter-European Division of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, thanked Yousafzai for her example.
"Thank you for your incredible courage and commitment for peace, equal opportunities and human rights," Vertallier said. "May the Lord Almighty always bless and protect you, and may many other boys and girls follow your wonderful example.”
Yousafzai, born July 12, 1997, is best known for her work promoting the education of women in her native Swat Valley in northwest Pakistan, where the Taliban, which banned the schooling of girls, determined to kill her two years ago.
On Oct. 9, 2012, a gunman boarded her school bus, asked for her by name, and fired three shots. One bullet hit the left side of Yousafzai's forehead, traveled under her skin through the length of her face, and went into her shoulder.
In the days following the attack, she remained unconscious and in critical condition, but later her condition improved enough for her to be sent to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, England, for intensive rehabilitation.
On Oct. 12, a group of 50 Islamic clerics in Pakistan issued a fatwa against those who tried to kill her, but the Taliban declared that they still intended to kill her.
The attack sparked an international outpouring of support for Yousafzai and boosted her education efforts into a worldwide movement. The Deutsche Welle newspaper wrote in January 2013 that Yousafzai may have become "the most famous teenager in the world."
The United Nations’ special envoy for global education, Gordon Brown, initiated a UN petition in Yousafzai's name that used the slogan "I am Malala" to call for all children worldwide to attend school by the end of 2015. The petition helped lead to the ratification of Pakistan's first Right to Education Bill.
After receiving the Nobel Prize on Wednesday, Yousafzai said in a speech that the award was “for those forgotten children who want education. It is for those frightened children who want peace. It is for those voiceless children who want change.”
She added: "I am here to stand up for their rights, raise their voice. It is not time to pity them. It is time to take action so it becomes the last time that we see a child deprived of education."