‘Three Cups of Tea’ – peace is not a product of war

Three Cups of Tea

One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace …

One School at a Time

This remarkable US bestseller was first published in 2006. It stands alongside Rebecca Solnit’s Hope in the Dark (2005) and Muhammad Yunus’ Creating a World Without Poverty (2007) as essential reading for those who want to help create a better world.

Three Cups of Tea tells the story of Greg Mortensen, a mountaineer who lost his way, both physically and personally. He stumbled into a remote village in the Karakoram Mountains of northern Pakistan and this not only saved his life, it also showed him his life compass. Too busy to write a book, he collaborated with journalist David Oliver Relin to bring this awe-inspiring tale to a wide audience.

Greg trained as a trauma nurse. This devout humanitarian was asked to call on an unconscious Muslim woman who had given birth but had a retained placenta. Because the villagers thought the mother had been poisoned, the baby had not been put to the breast. Greg gently insisted, as nursing stimulates uterine contractions. But even with antibiotics, the woman remained close to death. Greg was worried as he quietly explained to her husband the next step to remove the substance that was making his wife sick. Permission was given to the foreign infidel and the husband held the lantern. The following day the woman was up and about. But Greg says Haji Ali, the village headman, taught him that he had more to learn from these people than he could ever hope to teach them. ‘Haji Ali taught me to share three cups of tea, to slow down and make building relationships as important as building projects.’

Mortensen initially supported the US intervention in Afghanistan, but became disillusioned when the promised rebuilding did not materalise. For all their flaws, the Taliban had religiously suppressed the production of opium. With their defeat, poppy planting resumed. According to a study by Human Rights Watch, Afghanistan’s opium harvest spiked from nearly nonexistent to almost 4000 tons by the end of 2003. The profits do not trickle down to the poor growers, but some funds enable regional leaders to recruit and equip formidable private militias that make the feeble central government increasingly irrelevant the farther you travel from Kabul. Outsiders generally take little account of the primal allegiance that members of remote groups have to their own people.

Pakistan’s Brigadier General Bashir Baz has stated, ‘As a military man, I know you can never fight and win against someone who can shoot at you once and then run off and hide while you have to remain eternally on guard. You have to attack the source of your enemy’s strength. In America’s case that’s not Osama or Saddam or anyone else. The enemy is ignorance. The only way to defeat it is to build relationships with these people to draw them into the modern world with education and business. Otherwise the fight will go on forever’.

It is Mortensen’s vision that we all will dedicate the next decade to achieve universal literacy for all children, especially for girls. More than 145 million of the world’s children are deprived of education due to poverty, exploitation, slavery, gender discrimination, religious extremism, and corrupt governments. His hope is that Three Cups of Tea will be a catalyst to bring the gift of literacy to each of those children who deserves a chance to go to school.

ISBN: 978-0-141-03426-3

Penguin Books is committed to a sustainable future. Three Cups of Tea is printed on paper certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

Dawn Joyce

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