Ilona Sābera – portfolio

blogging, journalism, semiotics, short stories


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Christian school in Nigeria more welcoming towards Muslim students

Once more I am writing about religious dialogue. Despite dominating violence discourse I want to share a positive example, this time about Nigeria.

Published on Anglican News.

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Saint Mark’s Anglican primary school in Kawo Kaduna, Nigeria, is the only church school in the diocese where prayers and Christian religious subjects are not compulsory for Muslims.

Instead of closing the only church and the attached school when Christians fled the region, the diocesan bishop, newly appointed Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, the Most Revd Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, has insisted on a more welcoming approach towards Muslim students. Continue reading

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How to fit in a different country? Communicate, get over disappointment and reinvent identity.

SONY DSCWhen Margarita from Happy Abroad, a website giving tips on living in a different country, asked me to write about Egypt, I could not decide where to start. After three years in the country and a marriage to an Egyptian, am I the right person to give general advice? Can I still retrieve the feeling when I first came here without any work, study or personal commitments? I must admit the more time passes, the more my eyes and mind get accustomed and it takes effort to remember what impressed or amazed me before. While the first year was the hardest, it was also the most intense experience. I want to focus in this post on internal struggles I had to overcome to fit in a new place, taking into account that each experience is deeply personal. I want to talk about psychological states and social factors I had to consider to live in balance and peace in Egypt. Continue reading


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Producing the Anna Lindh Review 2005-2015

Anna Lindh Review 2010-2015

While working for the Anna Lindh Foundation in Alexandria, Egypt, one of my main projects was producing the foundation’s 10 years review. It was a complicated and challenging process of gathering and editing information from various units and teams, creating an appealing and simple narrative from excel spreadsheets and programme reports, selecting images that represent best the diversity of citizens and civil society of 43 Mediterranean countries and struggling with routine summer power cuts in an upper class Cairo neighbourhood while exploring full potential of creative young female Egyptian graphic designers in order to meet strict deadlines. I can now smile remembering that, but it was not all roses back then. Continue reading


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An infographic on 10 key findings of the Anna Lindh Report 2014

While working with the Anna Lindh Foundation in Alexandria, one of my challenges was creating an online publication for the Anna Lindh Report 2014. Published every three years, the Report combines a Gallup Public Opinion Poll on a sample of 13 000 people across Europe and Southern Eastern Mediterranean (SEM) region, including a wide range of analysis by a network of intercultural experts. It is a pioneering tool for knowledge on cross-cultural relations. Main topics discussed in the research are social change in the Euro-Med; differences and similarities in value systems; the religious factor in intercultural relations; human mobility; the role of culture in Mediterranean relations; intercultural citizenship; the Union for the Mediterranean and regional cooperation.

Such a variety of data and in depths analysis fits well in a printed publication. But what is the best way to present it online? After 10 key findings were defined by my colleagues working on the content, I opted for data visualisation. My choice was Infogr.am, a platform developed by a Latvian start-up allowing to create and share infographics easily. A snapshot of an infographic with some of the main data on mutual perceptions in the Euro-Med region is available below. Quotes and page numbers are added to point you to the full text of the Report .  An interactive version of the infographic on 10 Key Findings of the Anna Lind Report is on the Anna Lindh Foundation’s website.


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Guide on social security benefits in Latvia and EU

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For several months I was involved in an EU communication project on developing a reader-friendly guide on social security benefits and social security contributions. It was an opportunity to learn in detail about the EU social security systems which still greatly vary in each member state and understand the reasons socially vulnerable people take a decision to leave Latvia. Continue reading


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Constant defence mode: being a woman on Egyptian streets

If in my previous post I wrote about difficulties I face as a foreigner in Egypt, now I want to try to express a woman might feel. Even if sexual harassment in public places has been a permanent occurrence, especially in the last three years, a recent event has led to a harsh debate. A 19 years old Egyptian woman was sexually assaulted by a mob in Tahrir square during mass celebrations marking the inauguration of the new president. A completely naked and bleeding she was caught on video surrounded by dozens of men attacking and a helpless police officer. Continue reading


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Changing place and people – a solution or an escape?

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I am tired of fighting with people around me. I had a childhood dream to escape to a deep forest and live with birds and goats around me. I could have easily become a crazy cat lady and live happily ever after. I have a friend, a Latvian woman who, while witnessing urban expansion of my hometown Ogre, still struggles to make a living owning a small flock of goats. Every time I meet her, she repeats: “I love to talk to my goats more than to people”.

I need silence around me, a deep silence of a Latvian sunrise over the wheat fields. Just in this kind of silence I can hear my thoughts. Probably it is Egyptian constant fear of silence and empty places that makes living here so hard for a newcomer.

I tried to recreate a glimpse of my childhood memories by taking care of a ‘green corner’ on my balcony where I can lay down on the ground, watch plants blossoming and read a book alone. I can stay like that for days without leaving my flat. Continue reading