A 15-year-old's sacrifice for his friends Print
Youth Column
Written by Karen Osborne, Catholic News Service   
Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014 -- 12:00 AM

Not many reading this column will know much about 15-year-old Aitzaz Hasan, a student at a boys high school in Pakistan.

Aitzaz was a student who wanted peace for his town and country. In January, he noticed a man wearing a bomb heading for his school. What he did next was a superhero's feat: Aitzaz tackled the bomber before he could enter the school. The bomber activated a device on his vest and killed them both.

The boy's actions saved the lives of his classmates and teachers. To think anyone did this is jaw-dropping; to think that a teenager did this is beyond incredible.

Life is often cushy in the Western world. Next time you go to school, look around and notice the amenities your school has: desks, a gym, a cafeteria, teachers, and textbooks.

You can join extracurricular clubs and compete on sports teams. Some schools have swimming pools, art galleries, and high-tech computer centers. And yet people complain about something: the homework, the reading, the boring classes, or the difficult teachers.

In some places, students face serious obstacles to get an education. Some have to walk for miles to get to school, either because there's no transportation or it's too costly; girls are blocked from getting an education because of their gender. And then there are teens who can't concentrate because of the constant threat of terrorism or gang violence.

Going to school is a profound act of courage. Getting an education is the only way some students will ever get out of grinding poverty. Having an educated populace active in commerce and civic life is one of the only ways countries can become prosperous. When it comes to good health, a good economy, and a thriving culture, education makes it happen.

And yet, so many of us in the United States see school as boring, when hundreds of thousands of kids who don't have the basic combination of desk, book and textbook would love to have what we have.

Going to school means that you believe in yourself and you believe in the people around you. Going to school means that you are taking a stand against ignorance and violence and people who would exploit that for selfish purposes.

You can honor Aitzaz Hasan by standing up for yourself and others.

You can speak against bullies where you can, enlisting the help of teachers or other adults to help make your school a safe place. You can help others get excited about learning, tutoring friends and classmates in subjects that are easy for you or that you feel passionate about. Enlist their help, too.

Reach out to younger kids to help them realize that education is important. Volunteer to read to children or see if you can volunteer with a community organization that teaches leadership skills and literacy to children.

And most of all, when you're walking down the halls at school, remember Aitzaz's sacrifice and what it meant for his town and for the world.


Karen Dietlein Osborne contributes to “Coming of Age,” a CNS column series for and about youth. She is a staff writer for the Evangelist, newspaper of the Diocese of Albany, N.Y..

 
 

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