Since 2007, the Taliban has destroyed 640 schools in Afghanistan and 350 in Pakistan, most of which were girls' schools (see "Teacher, Can We Leave Now? No." The New York Times, July 18). One reason girls are targeted is because in rural areas, a young man needs approval from his mother to join a jihad, or holy war, and most educated women won't let their sons join the Taliban to wage this kind of war. Greg Mortenson, author of the book "Three Cups of Tea," stated that there is a fear that if girls are educated, they will educate their mothers, and also that when these girls become mothers, they will be less likely to let their sons become insurgents or militants.
These attitudes have been shaped by a mistaken sense of both manhood and womanhood. But praying to the one infinitely powerful God to reveal more of the dominion of true spiritual womanhood can make a difference in healing oppression, including that which would deny education to girls and women.
And what is spiritual womanhood? It is a part of the unchangeable, God-given spiritual nature of man â€“ meaning every man, woman, girl, and boy. Through prayer, we can grasp that God is Father and Mother, in which feminine or mothering qualities blend naturally with masculine or fathering qualities, evidenced in gentle strength, intuitive intelligence, and tender firmness, among many others.
Every man and woman, boy and girl, as the loved child of God, includes these qualities of true manhood and womanhood, which are present in all people. They aren't available to only one gender and not the other.
The one Father-Mother God is also the only Mind of everyone. This Mind constantly imparts the spiritual knowledge that snuffs out every kind of ignorance. When turned to in prayer, God as Mother shows every mother how best to guide her children and reveals to children the obedience that helps them grow in goodness. We can pray to know and feel God's divine protection of all precious boys and girls, and expect to see results from these prayers.
Strong, yet tender, womanhood is seen throughout the Bible. A few verses in Deuteronomy bring out the intelligent, loving, and omnipotent qualities of God's womanhood â€“ spiritual mothering that is awake and alive to caring for its children with kindness and discretion, whatever the conditions. "For the Lord's portion is his people;" says the Bible, "Jacob is the lot of his inheritance. He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: So the Lord alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him" (Deut. 32:9â€“12).
The ignorance that keeps girls from education because of unenlightened ideas of manhood and womanhood must be destroyed by this empowering truth of our relationship with God. Divine Love's care for us can't be stopped or obstructed in any way. Our spiritual nature is constituted of feminine and masculine qualities, which are always available. No person, group, political views, or intolerant religious beliefs can stop the spiritual growth and advancement of humanity, which includes right education.
Mary Baker Eddy, who founded Christian Science through her study of the inspired word of the Bible, the life and teachings of Christ Jesus, and her revelatory prayer, understood clearly that a false estimate of manhood and womanhood needed to be addressed. She wrote in the Christian Science textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," "One infinite God, good, unifies men and nations; constitutes the brotherhood of man; ends wars; fulfils the Scripture, 'Love thy neighbor as thyself;' annihilates pagan and Christian idolatry, â€“ whatever is wrong in social, civil, criminal, political, and religious codes; equalizes the sexes; annuls the curse on man, and leaves nothing that can sin, suffer, be punished or destroyed" (p. 340).
For permanent individual and collective freedom from ages of entrenched incorrect thinking, there must be a deep and abiding understanding that true womanhood is part of man's spiritual nature, made in the image and likeness of the one God. As prayer opens the way to accepting this as innate to our own nature, spiritual dominion and serenity destroy any false domination that would keep women and girls oppressed. It makes way for the divine influence to move people in ways that promote, not hinder, the progress of both genders.
Centuries of deep-rooted beliefs about the status, place, economy, and education of women may seem unmovable, but the one God is forever at work â€“ lifting oppression and bringing freedom step by step.