Greg Mortenson was a climber. He attempted K-2 in 1993 and failed, nearly dying in the process when he became separated from his party on the way out. A Muslim porter rescued him, and a northern Pakistani village nursed him back to health. He experienced the kindness of these impoverished people, whose children wanted to learn so badly that they worked on their lessons outdoors in all weather, drawing numbers and letters in the dirt because they had no building in which to meet, no books, no pencils, no paper. They had a teacher only half of the time because they shared one with the children in the next village. Only a few girls attended the makeshift classes.
Mortenson promised to build them a school with decent conditions where all would be welcome. Several years and a bridge later, he managed to do so with the endowment of a millionaire scientist, Jean Hoerni.
Mortenson continued his building in other villages, helping the people, school by school. He is single-handedly fighting Muslim extremism by giving the children, girls and boys, a chance for unbiased learning.
The man’s devotion to his cause has been unwavering for the last fifteen years. He was kidnapped for 8 days, had two fatwas issued on him, but he lived on to build over 50 schools schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
After 9-11, he spoke out for his Muslim friends, begging his country, the U.S., not to lump the innocent Muslims with the terrorists. Over his ten years of working in Pakistan and Afghanistan, he watched the rise of the madrassas, which often teach terrorism at the expense of unbiased education. He urged that extremism could not be fought with bombs alone. In the end, we needed to rebuild and aid and educate the people, to convince them that Americans were friends, not enemies. For this, he received hate mail from many “Christian” Americans, calling him a traitor among other things. After the hysteria passed, more people have come to see him as a visionary, a hero in many ways.
Mortenson deserves a Nobel Peace Prize for his work, if anyone does. He’ll receive one in his lifetime, Inshallah.