OSLO, Norway — Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan and Kailash Satyarthi of India received the Nobel Peace Prize on Dec. 10 for risking their lives to help protect children from slavery, extremism and forced labor at great risk to their own lives.
The 17-year-old Malala, the youngest ever Nobel winner, and Satyarthi, 60, collected the award at a ceremony in Oslo City Hall in the Norwegian capital to a standing ovation.
As she received her award, an asylum seeker from Mexico ran onto the stage waving his country’s flag, which he had apparently smuggled into the heavily guarded ceremony without an official invitation, police said. The young man was whisked away by a guard.
Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg bemoaned the brief interruption and lapse in security. To help protect Malala — who had been shot in the head by Taliban in Pakistan in 2012 — Oslo has been dominated by armed police and security guards for days, with blocked-off streets, metal fences and helicopters whirring above.
In his speech to an audience including Norwegian royalty and politicians, Nobel committee Chairman Thorbjorn Jagland said all children have a right to childhood and education, and “this world conscience can find no better expression” than through this year’s winners.
Referring to Malala’s serious injury in Pakistan two years ago, he said Islamic extremist groups dislike knowledge because it is a condition for freedom. “Attendance at school, especially by girls, deprives such forces from power,” he said.
He praised Satyarthi’s vision of ending child labor and how he had abandoned a career as an electrical engineer in 1980 to fight for that vision.
Jagland also singled out another Indian, Mahatma Gandhi, who remains the most notable omission in the 113-year history of the Nobel Peace Prize. The Chairman said prize winners live according to Gandhi’s principle: “There are many purposes I would have died for. There are no purposes I would have killed for.”
In his acceptance speech, Satyarthi referred to rapid globalization, high-speed Internet and international flights that connect people. “But there is one serious disconnect. It is a lack of compassion,” he said, urging the audience to “globalize compassion,” starting with children.
Malala’s parents sat side-by-side in the front row of the hall holding hands, and she thanked them for their unconditional love.
“Thank you to my father for not clipping my wings and for letting me fly,” she said. “Thank you to my mother for inspiring me to be patient and to always speak the truth — which we strongly believe is the real message of Islam.”
Earlier, the flag-waving youth who briefly interrupted the ceremony had shaken Malala’s hand in the Grand Hotel, where she was staying, telling her how much he admired her.
Oslo Police Superintendent John Fredrik Sem said the intruder was a Mexican student who had applied for political asylum in Norway a day earlier.
Sem said all guests entering the hall passed through a metal detector and provided identification and their official invitation. Conceding that a security “routine had failed,” Sem could not explain how the intruder — without an invitation — had passed through the checkpoints. Police did not provide the man’s name or age.
“We should have better security than this,” Solberg told public broadcaster NRK.
By honoring this year’s winners, the Norwegian Nobel Committee linked the peace award to conflicts between world religions and neighboring nuclear powers as well as drawing attention to children’s rights.