In May 2016, in Stratford upon Avon, a woman lunged into the path of a huge car transporter to push her little daughter, riding a scooter, out of its way. She saved her daughter but she was crushed to death.

Two months ago at Trèbes, in France, police officer Arnaud Beltram offered himself up in exchange of a woman who was being held hostage and ended up being shot and killed. His mother said his love for his country made him do this.

A courageous act is recognised by everyone and like love, that motivates it, courage brings the person closer to others. Being courageous is offering to others whatever you risk by the courageous act: be it your life, your job or your health. Through your love you make yourself a servant of others.

Politics brings the opportunity of courage of a special kind. Politicians hold power and prestige in society. A politician’s public position gives an ideal platform for courageous acts against injustice.

President John Kennedy, who was awarded the Purple Heart for courage, wrote Profiles in courage to document acts of political courage. He showed how eight US senators defied their party or constituents to hold to what they believe was right.

For example, he showed how Senator Thomas Benton’s stand against slavery made him unpopular and ruined his re-election to the Senate and the US House of Representatives. Because of his courage, however, the world is now a better place and his statue stands in the US capitol.

What causes individuals to be courageous? A courageous act in a mother may be instinctive but, like the French policeman’s, it is based on love. It is said that love drives out fear. If that is true, then is cowardice due to a lack of love?

In the 1700s, Irish statesman Edmund Burke said: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men should do nothing.” In 1910, Pope Pius X wrote similarly that “the greatest obstacle in the apostolate of the Church is the timidity or, rather, the cowardice of the faithful”.

A politician’s public position gives an ideal platform for courageous acts against injustice

I think we are all inherently born with a self-preservation instinct and an aversion to pain. However, some, like the mother and the policeman, lift themselves out of this and are able to act despite this deep instinct and this is what makes up courage.

Being a courageous person is usually defined by a single particular event, just as being cowardly is defined by refusing to act when we clearly should.

Events do define us by the way we respond to them.

In the Biblical Book of Esther, Esther was a Hebrew commoner who was chosen as queen because of her stunning beauty.

A genocide was planned against her people and she was the only one who could stop it but she had to risk her life to do so.

Her stepfather, Mordecai, told Esther that her high rank may have been given to her by God just so she might save her people at this critical time.

If she were to refuse to do so, deliverance would still come from elsewhere but she would perish. Esther did risk her life and saved her people.

We now have a parallel before us as future generations of vulnerable Maltese embryonic lives lie in the hands of elected Members of Parliament.

The Maltese are known for their courage during World War II. When I was at school in Africa, I used to take pride in relating the story of how the George Cross was awarded to Malta and about Maltese courage in the siege of 1942.

Can we say the same about the Maltese in 2018? Are we willing to stand up and be counted in support of the most vulnerable, for what is right?

Patrick Pullicino is a neurologist studying for the priesthood.

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