‘Mother Teresa of Cairo’: The life of Maggie Gobran

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She’s been given many titles. She’s been called “the Voice of the Poor”. Many have even referred to her as the “Mother Teresa of Cairo”. But the name dearest to Maggie Gobran is, simply, Mama Maggie.

Maggie Gobran is the Coptic Orthodox ministry leader who founded the organisation Stephen’s Children in 1989. She has helped more than 30,000 destitute families, beginning her mission from the impoverished area of Zabbaleen, where most of Cairo’s garbage collectors and their families live.

Nun Maggie Gobran

The Stephen’s Children charity foundation – named after the first Christian martyr – provides clinics, education centres and camps to Christians and Muslims with the help of over 1,500 workers and volunteers. Over the years, the organisation has expanded its outreach across Egypt, paying special attention to the south.

Soft-spoken, and almost-always dressed in white, Gobran appears to be gracious yet humble, quiet yet dynamic. Her charisma is impossible to go unnoticed.

Coming from an upper-middle class family, Gobran was a marketing manager and computer science professor at the American University in Cairo. In the 1980s, curiosity led her to visit the worst slums in Cairo. The misery and poverty she saw there changed the course of her life. Since then she decided to dedicate her time, effort and resources to serve and help the inhabitants of impoverished areas.

Maggie Gobran (photo: lydia)

In recognition of her efforts to alleviate the suffering of the poor of Egypt, Gobran was a Nobel Peace Prize nomination in 2012. The nomination came after five US Republican congressmen sent a letter to the Nobel Committee asking that she be considered for the award.

“Ms. Gobran is a woman of the utmost integrity and her tireless work has served thousands of Egyptians, including countless children. She has given voice to the poor,” the letter said.

“It is through her deep religious and moral commitment that Mama Maggie has succeeded in creating an organization that serves the most poor, desperate and vulnerable population of Egypt,” the recommendation letter read.

Gobran has been referred to as the “Mother Teresa of Cairo” after comparisons were drawn between her and Mother Teresa, who for 45 years ministered to the poor, orphaned, sick and dying in the slums of India. Mother Teresa received numerous honours, including the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize.

Nun Maggie Gobran (photo: vikebladet)

 Memorable quotes by Maggie Gobran:

“I liked to be elegant. But I found to be elegant comes from the inside, to love. True love is to give and forgive, to give until it hurts. With God’s grace I left everything and found Him shining, waiting for me with a crown of love.”

“Silence your body to listen to your words. Silence your tongue to listen to your thoughts. Silence your thoughts to listen to your heart beating. Silence your heart to listen to your spirit. And silence your spirit and you will listen to His spirit. You know in silence you leave many to be with the One.”

Bill Hybels and Mama Maggie Gobran

“When you die to yourself you discover the beauty and power within yourself.”

“To be in silence is to be fully inside your own self.”

“When one has nothing God becomes everything.”

“We build a church in the heart of every child we reach in a country where it’s not always possible to build a church.”

“When I touch a poor child, I touch Jesus Christ.”

“The silence is the secret – the first step – to finding treasure.”

“When I listen to a poor child I’m listening to God’s heart beating for all humanity.”