On Monday the 6th of November, Maastricht University had the privilege to welcome on its premises a world renowned foreign correspondent and author Christina Lamb, who spoke about her interesting career choice at the annual Tans Lecture, which honours the founding father of Maastricht University, Sjeng Tans.
Christina Lamb is a British journalist, who was awarded the prestigious title of OBE (Dame Commander of the Order of British Empire) in 2013, for her significant achievements in journalism. Currently, she is the chief foreign correspondent for The Sunday Times. She is also a co-author of bestseller I am Malala, where she collaborated with Malala Yousafzai, Pakistani activist and the youngest Nobel Prize laureate, who stood up against Taliban in the pursuit of advocating for women’s rights and education. Lamb’s latest book, Nujeen: One Girl’s Incredible Journey from War-torn Syria in a Wheelchair, again confirmed her passion for telling the fascinating life stories of those who are otherwise silenced, oppressed or ignored.
On Monday evening in Maastricht she gave us a peak into her adventurous life, which she dedicated to the commitment of letting the world know what is going on behind the curtains. She talked about her beginnings, where by a lucky turn of events she found herself at the wedding of Benazir Bhutto, a famous Pakistani politician, which inspired her to follow a career in war journalism as she listened to the stories of Pakistani activists tortured in the pursuit of establishing democracy. Her first assignment as a foreign correspondent was in Afghanistan, where she as a young 22 year-old woman travelled all alone, with nothing else but a small suitcase, old tape-recorder and an enormous amount of courage. Her enthusiasm, passion and hard work helped her to become a household name in the journalist circle and she has been actively reporting on Pakistan and Afghanistan for almost three decades as well as covering wars from Iraq to Libya, Angola to Syria; from Eritrea to Zimbabwe; while also visiting the remote Amazon tribes.
Due to her risky career choice, she faced many life-threatening situations such as the time when she narrowly escaped from a Taliban ambush of British troops in Helmand in 2006, or when she was accompanying Benazir Bhutto in her journey through Pakistan on the top of the bus when it was suddenly blown up in October 2007. She admits that similar moments led her to consider the cost of the job on her wellbeing, yet she always decided to continue. She still reports on the disastrous events and on the people affected by them because in her own words, “in the grim places, there are the most impressive, brightest lights”.
As exciting as the lecture was, it was also very inspiring. Christina Lamb’s daily sacrifice to report on the unbelievable, incredible and many times heart-wrenching stories of people living in the war zones has once again proven how powerful one’s voice can be and how important it is just to listen. This does not mean that one has to enter the dangerous war zones to get the best stories, because the stories are all around us. Those that are interested in hearing these stories can always volunteer at the closest refugee centre or in the organizations that are helping out those in need. Giving a voice to those who are unheard can have a huge impact on these people’s lives and one can only imagine how much change could take place if only more people cared as much as Christina does.