Journalist and author Mariane Pearl told a moving story of overcoming personal tragedy – the murder of her husband – and choosing to become a better global citizen at a presentation that kicked off International Education Week at the University of Central Florida.
Pearl’s talk to nearly 400 people Monday was co-hosted by the UCF International Services Center and UCF Global Perspectives Office. She also spoke to various groups on and off campus.
Pearl is the widow of Daniel Pearl, a journalist for The Wall Street Journal who was kidnapped by members of al-Qaeda in Pakistan in 2002.
It was a day, she said, that changed her life forever. Her husband was in Karachi, investigating al-Qaeda’s ties with “shoe bomber” Richard Reid. Daniel had gone out to meet someone for an interview and when he did not call Pearl at a predetermined time, she feared something had gone wrong.
The situation rapidly worsened. After subjecting Daniel to captivity, abuse and humiliation for several days, his captors suddenly killed him and released the horrific videotaped act to the world.
His death left Pearl alone and seven months pregnant with their first child.
Torn by the impulse to pick up a gun and avenge her husband’s death, Pearl ultimately willed herself to stay true to her values, she said. She realized the aim of the terrorists was the opposite of what she and her husband represented. To embrace their culture of violence was to become like them. Instead, she concluded that she would have to stand up and defy the perpetrators and their supporters.
“They want to destroy hope,” she said, vowing to preserve it by any means.
“They want to kill trust,” she added, determined to build it by reaching out to people of all backgrounds, cultures, religions and ethnicities.
“They want to imprison people in labels and stereotypes,” said Pearl. “They want to silence me.”
Finally, she said the terrorists’ goal is to paralyze, and that she would relentlessly take action, despite her sense of loss and sorrow.
“Sometimes you need to be shaken in your foundations to grow,” she explained. Then you begin to rebound, for in choosing dialogue you have demonstrated the “triumph of peace and humanity.”
Pearl ended her presentation with words of encouragement. She strives to promote dialogue, but often encounters cynicism. When that happens, she said, she recalls the wisdom of her father, who considered cynicism “the weapon of the weak.”
Pearl said she knows who she is, has inner peace and is ready as a global citizen to join in tackling the challenges and problems of her world.
In addition to the Global Perspectives Office and the International Services Center, sponsors and partners of Pearl’s visit included the UCF Political Science Department, Sibille H. Pritchard Global Peace Fellowship program, the UCF Office of Diversity Initiatives, the UCF Global Peace and Security Studies Program, the UCF Middle Eastern Studies Program, the UCF Diplomacy Program, the UCF Terrorism Studies Program, the UCF Book Festival 2012 in association with the Morgridge International Reading Center, UCF LIFE and the Global Connections Foundation.
International Education Week is a celebration of international education and exchange worldwide. Held at schools around the United States, the event is a joint initiative between the U.S. departments of State and Education.
UCF participants involved with this year’s celebration of International Education Week include the International Services Center, Global Perspectives Office, Office of International Studies, Office of Internationalization, College of Education, College of Sciences, Department of Anthropology, Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning, Housing and Residence Life, Multicultural Student Center, Office of the Provost, Office of the Executive Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, International Student Association, Colombian Student Association, Dining Services, Center for Multilingual Multicultural Studies, Student Development and Enrollment Services, UCF Libraries, Burnett Honors College, Career Services, Regional Campuses, Experiential Learning, UCF Police Department and Victim Services.