Mission Diary. To create unity in a divided world

“The experience at the Helwan girls’ school has been very enriching and has helped me passionately live my missionary vocation.” Sr Sarah Laker, a Comboni Missionary from Uganda, shares her experience with us.

Egypt is my first mission country. I took my first vows in 2019 as a Comboni missionary and came here to study Arabic, the language I now communicate with. Although this North African country is very different from my native Uganda, little by little I have adapted and I feel comfortable among my new brothers and sisters.

The Comboni missionaries carry out pastoral work with the Catholics who reside in this country, with a Muslim majority, and we also have commitments in the health field. However, our main mission is in the educational area, especially in Aswan and Cairo, which is where I am.

At present, we are six sisters in Helwan, a neighbourhood on the outskirts of the Egyptian capital, located about 25 kilometres to the south. For the congregation, it is a place of great historical value because the community was founded on August 1, 1888, just a few years after the death of founder Daniel Comboni.

Here I work as an English teacher at the Sacred Family Primary School for girls. On the other side of the street is the boys’ school, with the same name, which is run by the Comboni Missionaries. The day begins for us very early. At six in the morning, we are already in the chapel for prayer. From there the rush to start work at school begins.

We like to arrive before the students, but often we can’t. As many parents start working very early and, sometimes very far from here, they prefer to drop their daughters off at school before “fighting” with the terrible traffic in Cairo. That forces us to arrive on time so that the girls are not left alone.

Despite the tightness of time, every morning, a little before eight o’clock, the teachers and the nuns have a small meeting. We are convinced that the dialogue between us is important to carry out this educational ministry.

The experience at the Helwan girls’ school has been very enriching and has helped me passionately to live my missionary vocation. I am moved by the welcome of the girls, who do not hesitate to express their affection with a hug, a smile, or by telling me openly that they love me very much.

I am learning a lot from them, especially to better understand those words of Jesus: “Unless you become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” They are very powerful words. You have to become like these girls with whom I spend a large part of the day. They fully trust us and show us their affection at every moment. I would like to learn to love as only children know how to do it. An interesting aspect of our mission at the Helwan School is the presence of Christian and Muslim girls who study together, like good friends.

It is nice to see how some Muslim families appreciate our work and choose to send their daughters to a Christian school. This is how we live fraternity; what others call interreligious dialogue, and that we live with simplicity and spontaneity every day. For me, that is a true testimony of the Gospel.

Jesus always insisted on the commandment of love, and that is what we seek and try to put into practice at this school. I am convinced that our educational mission in Helwan is important and has an impact on girls and their families. We are contributing with our witness to create unity in a divided world and that gives me great joy and sustains me in my daily work.

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