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Taste of Egypt Offers a Sampling of Egyptian Culture, Peek Inside Coptic Faith

posted on: Sep 27, 2019

Taste of Egypt Offers a Sampling of Egyptian Culture, Peek Inside Coptic Faith

SOURCE: CHICAGO TRIBUNE

BY: JESSE WRIGHT

St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Church invited the Burr Ridge community this weekend for a look at its culture and faith, a sampling of some authentic Egyptian food and even camel rides at the 15th annual Taste of Egypt festival.

According to Father Theodore Labib, the annual event is a way for the church to celebrate the culture of many parishioners and also an excuse to invite others to enjoy their traditional dishes and just plain have fun.

“The Taste of Egypt is our opportunity to reach out to the community for people to know who we are,” Labib said. “People don’t know who we are as Copts. … It’s a good opportunity for people to know us.”

Lois Cermak stopped by the festival with her daughter, Chris Barloga, after they heard about it from a couple of parishioners they know. Barloga and Cermak said it was their first year visiting the church, and they enjoyed the festival.

“The food was really good,” Barloga said. “The grape leaves were delicious.”

Besides enjoying the food, festival-goers could buy jewelry, get henna tattoos, take a ride on a camel and kids could play games. Church tours also were available.

Copts are the largest Christian group in Egypt and they adhere to the Eastern Orthodox faith.

Labib said Copts have been living in the Chicagoland area since the 1950s and 1960s, and many of those people still attend the church.

“A lot of us are first-generation immigrants,” he said.

St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church is this year celebrating its 50th anniversary, though the church has continued to expand as more immigrants come and as children of immigrants have children of their own.

The church now boasts two chapels so the faithful can attend a service in Arabic and Coptic and as others can attend a service in English and Coptic. In fact, the Burr Ridge church isn’t the only Coptic church in the area. Labib said there are four churches in the Chicagoland area.

“We’re very big on keeping the youth within the church,” he said. “We have extensive campus ministries.”

Besides that, Labib said the church is happy to welcome anyone of any nationality for services.

“We have open doors, that’s one of the things we do,” he said. “When people come in, they get the impression we are monolithic but we do get people who join the community.”

Even without the camel rides and falafels, Labib said anyone in the community is welcome to attend a service.

“We love people to come and visit us any typical Sunday,” he said. “The church is open for people to come and worship with us.”

St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church is located at 15 W. 455 79th St. in Burr Ridge.