President Obama called on people of faith to “respect the right of every single American to practice their religion,” using a speech to a prayer breakfast to urge unity between the Jewish, Muslim and Christian traditions.
“For this is what each of us is called on to do. To seek our common humanity in each other. To make sure our politics and our public discourse reflect that same spirit of love and sound mind,” he said, echoing St. Paul’s second letter to Timothy and continuing a recent theme of civility and tolerance in response to the anti-Muslim rhetoric from Republican presidential candidates like Donald Trump.
“To assume the best in each other, not just the worst. And not just at the National Prayer Breakfast,” he said Thursday at his last appearance as president at the annual event. “To begin each of our works from the shared belief that all of us want what’s good and right for our country and our future,” he said. “We can draw such strength from the quiet moments of heroism around us every single day.”
Obama’s annual address to the National Prayer Breakfast comes the day after his first-ever visit to an American mosque, and a week after he became the first president to speak at the Israeli embassy. At each stop, he promoted religious freedom and tolerance.
Thursday’s event was bipartisan and non-denominational, but has historic roots in evangelical Christianity. There, Obama also drew on his own Christian faith in confronting the issues facing the nation and his presidency, delivering a sermon on faith and fear in a dangerous and unpredictable world.
“The sheer rapidity of change and the uncertainty it brings is real. The hardship of a family trying to make ends meet. Refugees fleeing from a war-torn home. Those things are real. Terrorism, eroding shore lines. Those things are real,” he said. “Fear can feed our most selfish impulses and erode the bonds of community.
“For me, and I know for so many of you, faith is the great cure for fear. Jesus is a good cure for fear. God gives believers the power, the love, the sound mind required to conquer any fear. And what more important moment for that faith than right now.”
The National Prayer Breakfast has been an annual tradition for presidents since the newly inaugurated Dwight Eisenhower joined a small prayer circle in 1953. Presidents of both parties have visited ever since.
Obama praised the faith-based efforts in communities throughout the country, from disaster relief in Flint, Mich. to the “less spectacular, quiet acts” of “just helping people, seeing God in others.”
SOURCE: USA Today – Gregory Korte