In 1988, Bhutto was the first woman ever elected to govern a Muslim country. And while Islam has a long tradition of honoring the contributions of women, I agree with Medea Benjamin when she says in this Huffington Post article that Bhutto's death is "a blow to people all over Pakistan, and the world, who hold life sacred and believe in the basics precepts of democracy. It is also a blow to women worldwide who took strength from seeing such a courageous, articulate and charismatic woman playing a leadership role in a powerful Muslim country."
Benjamin goes on to quote from an essay Bhutto wrote for Benjamin's upcoming book. Bhutto's words - powerful on any day - are even more powerful today:
"The neglect of rising poverty against the background of religious extremism can only complicate an already difficult world situation," she said. "The war against terrorism is primarily perceived as a war based on the use of force. However, economics has its own force, as does the desperation of families who cannot feed themselves.Those of us in the non-profit sector, and frankly all people as global citizens, have no choice but to rise to this challenge. The alternative is untenable.
"Militancy and greed cannot become the defining images of a new century that began with much hope. We must refocus our energy on promoting the values of democracy, accountability, broad-based government, and institutions that can respond to people's very real and very urgent needs."
Benjamin closes her article with these words. I hope they help all of us continue to move forward, despite this horrific setback.
Whether in Pakistan or in our home countries, we can dedicate ourselves to building a world based on tolerance, cooperation and fulfilling the urgent needs of the human family--which are the pillars of a more peaceful world.