Tonawanda News — Since its beginning five years ago, the Egyptian Festival at St. Mary & St. Moses Coptic Orthodox Church in North Tonawanda has grown steadily, drawing more and more people to the church at the corner of Wheatfield Street and Payne Avenue for food, presentations, tours and more.
With that in mind, organizers of the festival have added one more day to the popular event, which will take place from 4 to 8 p.m. today, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and noon to 7 p.m. Sunday at the church.
“Last year we found more and more people interested, more people coming, so we thought we’d add one more day this year and see what happened,” said Adel Sadek, a lay minister at the church. “People are beginning to know about it.”
Almost 1,000 people attended the 2012 festival, Sadek said. This year’s event will also feature more selections of traditional, authentic foods, including shawarma, falafel, kushari, Eygptian-style chicken and other items, and more presentations about the Coptic church and its heritage, in addition to tours, videos, a children’s corner and gift selections.
Another detail is new, as well. This year, a portion of proceeds from the festival will go to the church’s counterparts in Egypt, where the state of unrest has affected many Coptic Christians, Sadek said.
“One thing we’re trying to do is set aside some of the income to help those who have been affected,” he said. “That’s a big part of what we’re trying to do this year, especially with everything that’s going on.”
Father Mark Iskander of St. Mary & St. Moses said that many churches and homes have been burnt in Egypt. The country’s Coptic Christians have faced reprisals after President Mohammed Morsi’s overthrow in July.
“This is a way to support our brothers and sisters in Egypt who have been victimized, to help them out and support them now,” he said. “We’re praying for peace, not only in Egypt, but in Syria as well. We don’t like wars.”
While the event is a way to help those in Egypt and to reach out to the larger community in Western New York, it’s also a way to unite the church community itself. Iskander said that members of the church “from 8 to 80” help bring the festival about.
“One of the great things about the festival is it brings everyone together in the church. We all work as one church, one heart, one soul,” he said. “It’s a great way to introduce ourselves to the community and share something, as well.”
Sadek said church members hope the event’s success continues to grow.
“We’re praying and hoping for good weather,” he said, “and hopefully a lot of people will come and have fun.”
The congregation purchased the nearly-100-year-old former Protestant church in 2004. The Coptic Orthodox Church is one of the oldest Christian churches in the world, dating back to the first century AD.IF YOU GO • WHAT: Fifth annual Egyptian Festival • WHEN: 4 to 8 p.m. today, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and noon to 7 p.m. Sunday • WHERE: St. Mary & St. Moses Coptic Orthdox Church, 350 Wheatfield St., North Tonawanda.