The Rev. Bishoy Andrawes knows well Egypt's need for democratic reforms. The 41-year-old senior priest at St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church of Washington, grew up in Alexandria, Egypt, where Copts face restrictions and discrimination from both government officials and Islamic extremists. During this tumultuous week in his homeland, Andrawes shared with The Washington Examiner by e-mail thoughts on his ancient faith and hopes for a modern miracle. Do you consider yourself to be of a specific faith?

I am Coptic Orthodox Christian. I was born and raised in that faith. We believe in one God: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Our Coptic Church is one of the oldest churches in the world, established in 68 A.D. by St. Mark -- the writer of the second Gospel -- in Alexandria, Egypt. St. Mark was the first pope, and now Pope Shenouda III is the 117th pope. In the Coptic faith, the church plays a very important role in the lives of the believers. For example, any Coptic person would look for the Coptic Church before he looks for schools or real estate when moving to another city. I love the fact that we, Copts, take worship very seriously and consider that helping the poor and needy is not optional.

As one of the oldest Christian communities in the world, how does the Coptic Church's thread of unbroken history impact worship and faith?

The rich history of the Coptic Church gives the church authenticity and depth. Orthodox means that things have not changed. Many people are drawn to the orthodox (unchanged) core beliefs of the church. We have not compromised our beliefs or practices over the past 20 centuries. Some may see that as rigidity but many see that as authenticity. When someone practices Orthodoxy with spirit and understanding, he is deeply enriched. People like the challenge that is given in the church through fasting and extensive prayers. It is no wonder most of our members are young people.

Copts have faced intense and often violent persecution in Egypt, especially as Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood have gained influence. Has that in any way defined or strengthened the Coptic faith or community?

We believe in the saying "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church." I believe that the Coptic Church has had more martyrs than any other church in the world. The church survived many difficult times and will continue to prevail according to Christ's promise in Matthew 16:18: "the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it." When the church is persecuted, people pray more fervently and repent so they grow in the faith. Since the last bombing in Alexandria on Jan. 1, many people have drawn closer to God and offered repentance because they were not sure if they would return home alive after Christmas Liturgy, which we celebrate on Jan. 7. Christians are experiencing a spiritual revival in Egypt because of that. It's somewhat similar to our experience here in the U.S. after Sept. 11, 2001.

In light of the recent protests in Egypt and calls for greater democracy, how much hope do you have for a religiously diverse and tolerant Egypt?

At this point, I believe that Egypt needs a miracle! We believe in miracles and we're waiting for God to send a Martin Luther King to Egypt so Copts can get their rights. When the country is united under a fair government, miracles can happen because as Jesus said, and as President Lincoln quoted him later, "a nation divided against itself cannot stand."

At your core, what is one of your defining beliefs?

I believe that God loves me personally and has given me so many blessings and gifts so I may share with others. The more I share the love of God, the more He blesses me. I definitely believe that I don't deserve any of His blessings and that's why we call it "God's grace!"

- Leah Fabel