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article imageObama warns against religious atrocities in Prayer Breakfast

By Sravanth Verma     Feb 6, 2015 in World
Washington D.c. - President Barack Obama denounced religious intolerance and atrocities committed in the name of faith during his address of religious and political leaders at the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday.
“We see faith driving us to do right,” Obama said. “We also see faith being twisted and distorted, used as a wedge, or worse, sometimes as a weapon.” Obama called attention to the acts of the Islamic State group, and the tragic shooting in January of Charlie Hebdo staff in Paris. He also noted fighting in the Central African Republic and other recent events which had religion as an underlying factor.
“We have seen violence and terror perpetrated by those who profess to stand up for faith, their faith, profess to stand up for Islam, but in fact are betraying it,” Obama said. “We see ISIL, a brutal, vicious, death cult that, in the name of religion, carries out unspeakable acts of barbarism, terrorizing religious minorities like the Yazidis, subjecting women to rape as a weapon of war, and claiming the mantle of religious authority for such actions.”
Obama also acknowledged the Dalai Lama, who was one among the gathering of 3,000. Obama praised the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader. "I want to offer a special welcome to a good friend," said Obama, who stated that the Dalai Lama "inspires us to speak up for the freedom and dignity of all human beings." This is Obama's fourth meeting as President with the Dalai Lama. However, all three previous encounters took place behind closed doors, most likely to avoid ticking China off. China, which calls the Dalai Lama a separatist who seeks to take Tibet away from China, casts an unkind eye on those who host or support the Tibetan leader. The Dalai Lama has lived in India in exile, since he fled China in 1959.
The Dalai Lama attends the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington  DC on February 5  2015
The Dalai Lama attends the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC on February 5, 2015
Saul Loeb, AFP
Obama also referred to India, speaking of a nation that was “full of magnificent diversity – but a place where, in past years, religious faiths of all types have, on occasion, been targeted by other peoples of faith, simply due to their heritage and their beliefs.” Obama had visited the country on January 26, and was the Chief Guest at India's Republic Day Parade. Obama said such acts of intolerance “would have shocked Gandhiji, the person who helped to liberate that nation.” Obama is an admirer of Mahatma Gandhi, who planned and motivated India's non-violent Independence movement from the British.
Obama also made similar remarks in his final speech in India in the last week of January. However, the White House has downplayed the significance of these remarks, which had been seized on by various sections of the Indian media. Phil Reiner, National Security Council Senior Director for South Asian Affairs, said the remarks had to be understood in context of the entire speech. “The speech was about how both the United States and India have these core democratic values and principles that allow us to continue to provide for all of our people,” Mr. Reiner said. “And this is actually something that I would point to, that Prime Minister Modi himself spoke to just the night before in his remarks to the business summit. I don’t believe that this was a parting shot by any means. This was simply the President speaking to what makes us great democratic nations.”
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