ONE Magazine

The official publication of
Catholic Near East Welfare Association

Celebrating 50 years | God • World • Human Family • Church

A Woman Reporter: The Story of Her Life

As a religious minority in an overwhelmingly Muslim culture and society, Christians in general struggle with their identity from early childhood. Lilian Nabil, an outspoken journalist covering women’s affairs for Watani, recalls her days in Egyptian public school. In grade school, she says, teachers made reference to passages from the Quran and Islamic law, but never spoke a word about the Bible.

“It’s fine to study the culture of the other religion but it should be parallel with verses from Christianity as well so there’s an exchange of culture,” says the stylish 27-year-old.

Lilian Nabil studied journalism at Benha University, located in the predominantly Muslim town of the same name, about 30 miles north of Cairo. At first, she had trouble making friends among the mostly Muslim student body. “The first couple of months, when girls introduced themselves and asked me my name, I would say ‘Lilian’ and they would instantly ask if I was Christian. When I would say yes, they would often walk away. In their villages, there may have only been three or four Christian families,” she says. “But by the end of the year, I was friends with everyone in my class.”

Lilian Nabil says the discrimination she experiences on a regular basis has more to do with her gender than her Christian identity. For instance, when she works in one of Cairo’s many poor, high-crime neighborhoods, a male colleague always accompanies her. A woman alone in such an area, especially a Christian woman, could fall victim to a violent crime.

Even in Cairo’s posh neighborhoods, men frequently harass her on the streets. “You won’t believe me when I tell you, but it’s like I’ve become deaf and blind to it because it happens all the time; I don’t even notice,” says the journalist, who is working with other activists on draft legislation that would criminalize sexual harassment in public places.

Though a modern woman, she still feels traditional social pressures. Most Egyptians consider her to be past the expected marrying age for women. “Every time you get older people would say, ‘Oh, but she hasn’t gotten married yet!’” she exclaims.

“There are a lot of wrong perceptions in the community,” she sighs. “At the end of the day, things need to change.”

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