Wilberforce to recognize ‘Mother Teresa’ of Egypt

Published 12:57 am Saturday, May 18, 2019

The Wilberforce Award will be presented in Washington, D.C., this weekend to a person described as the “Mother Teresa” of Egypt.  The prestigious award is named for William Wilberforce, a devout Christian who served in the British Parliament.

Wilberforce worked for 40 years proposing legislation to banish the slave trade in the Britain and the British Empire. Three days before his death, he learned of the final passage of his legislation.

The Wilberforce Award was established in 1987 by Prison Fellowship founder Chuck Colson “to celebrate men and women who have publicly lived out their Christian faith, and have had a positive impact on their communities and the world.”  Previous winners include Canon Andrew White, who ministered for years to Christians in Iraq and Joni Eareckson Tada for her work on behalf of people with disabilities.

This year’s recipient is Mama Maggie.  According to the Colson Center, “Thirty years ago, Mama Maggie was a well-to-do Egyptian woman who loved traveling from Cairo to Europe with her husband for parties and shopping. But in her mid-thirties, she and a group of friends from church decided to visit one of Cairo’s garbage slums. Some 60,000 people live there, most of them Christians who gather and sort garbage in the most appalling conditions for just a few coins a day—barely enough to live on.”

Mama Maggie’s biographer Ellen Vaughn writes about how Maggie talked to the parents and hugged the children there, “Maggie fell in love with the privilege of being a part of their lives.” Vaughn co-wrote “Mama Maggie: The Untold Story of One Woman’s Mission to Love the Forgotten Children of Egypt’s Garbage Slums.”

The Colson Center goes on the say, “She began visiting the slums every day, and founded a ministry called Stephen’s Children, named for the first Christian martyr. Three decades later, Stephen’s Children now helps 33,000 children through home visits, camps, vocational training, schools, and medical care.”

The many stories about her work include a little boy named Karim.  A few years ago, while hugging the child, she placed her hand over his heart.  Mama Maggie knew something was wrong.  Through the Stephen’s Children’s ministry, Karim was taken to a cardiologist who found that the child had a hole in his heart.  The ministry paid the cost for the operation, which the family could never have afforded.  Then they visited him during his recovery and brought food to his family.

“Back in 2015, the world was shocked when 21 Coptic Christians were beheaded by ISIS terrorist. Each refused to renounce their faith. At least seven of those martyrs had attended Mama Maggie’s schools,” the Colson Center states.

Mama Maggie exemplifies the words of William Wilberforce. “You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.” Mama Maggie demonstrates the words of Jesus when He taught us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick or those in prison.  Jesus said,  “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’” (Matthew 27:37-40).

Jan White is a national award-winning religion columnist. She can be reached at jan@janwhitewriter.com