Thursday, February 18, 2010

true hero

College life is usually full of good times and many fond memories. It was no different for students on the women’s campus of a university in Islamabad, Pakistan on October 20, 2009. The young ladies were enjoying lunch in the cafeteria, while working outside was a janitor, Pervaiz Masih, who had been on the job there less than a week. Masih was a Christian, which is not much of a resume-builder in Muslim Pakistan (no disrespect toward janitors). A strange thing happened this day Masih was working when someone walked to the building dressed in a burka from head to foot. Even in this Islamic nation, the outfit was a little over the top. When a security guard suspected something was amiss, the man under the burka shot the guard. As the attacker began moving toward the cafeteria where an estimated 300 to 400 students were gathered, Masih blocked his path and refused to let him enter. It was reported there was a confrontation and a large explosion. The attacker and Masih were killed, as were three students, but most of the ball bearings used as shrapnel exploded into the parking lot rather than the cafeteria, most likely saving many lives. Pockmarks in the walkway are a reminder of the event.

Afterward, one of the students stated, “If he didn't stop the suicide attacker, there could have been great, great destruction.” Another student, 20-year-old Sumaya Ahsan said, "He's now a legend to us, because he saved our lives, our friends' lives." Professor Fateh Muhammad Malik remarked, “Despite being a Christian, he sacrificed his life to save the Muslim girls." Video coverage of this story by CNN is worth viewing. [1]

Who do many people think of when the term “hero” is mentioned? Spiderman, Barack Obama, Drew Brees? Perhaps Captain Sullenberger, who landed a plane in the Hudson River or Richard Phillips, whose boat was hijacked by Somali pirates? Many fawn over celebrities, musicians and athletes, but those truly deserving of recognition are ordinary people who do extraordinary things during unanticipated situations.

The account of Pervaiz Masih may remind us of another hero who once said, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” And, like those students in the cafeteria, most of whom probably do not know the true God: “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

[1] CNN edition, “Christian janitor died saving Muslim students”, posted 11 Nov 2009,