At the White House National Prayer Breakfast this morning, President Obama quoted (among other things) a Hadith of the Holy Prophet Mohammed SAW:
We know too that whatever our differences, there is one law that binds all
great religions together. Jesus told us to “love thy neighbor as thyself.”
The Torah commands, “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your
fellow.” In Islam, there is a hadith that reads “None of you truly believes
until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.” And the same
is true for Buddhists and Hindus; for followers of Confucius and for
humanists. It is, of course, the Golden Rule – the call to love one
another; to understand one another; to treat with dignity and respect those
with whom we share a brief moment on this Earth.
It is an ancient rule; a simple rule; but also one of the most challenging.
For it asks each of us to take some measure of responsibility for the
well-being of people we may not know or worship with or agree with on every
issue. Sometimes, it asks us to reconcile with bitter enemies or resolve
ancient hatreds. And that requires a living, breathing, active faith. It
requires us not only to believe, but to do – to give something of ourselves
for the benefit of others and the betterment of our world.
In this way, the particular faith that motivates each of us can promote a
greater good for all of us. Instead of driving us apart, our varied beliefs
can bring us together to feed the hungry and comfort the afflicted; to make
peace where there is strife and rebuild what has broken; to lift up those
who have fallen on hard times. This is not only our call as people of
faith, but our duty as citizens of America, and it will be the purpose of
the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships that I’m
announcing later today.
What is beautiful about this is that Obama explicitly ties together and emphasizes the common heritage of faith, and the sense of civic purpose that churches and mosques alike engage in as essential components in our social fabric. It’s also worth noting that Obama alludes to those who have no faith at all – after all, it makes no sense to exclude atheists from that sense of shared purpose.
The National Prayer Breakfast is quite a major event – also in attendance were former British Prime Minister Tony Blair (delivering the keynote address) and various lawmakers from the House and Senate (Democrats and Republicans alike). Christianity Today Magazine was in attendance and live-twittered the event (@CTmagazine).
The intriguing thing about the National Prayer Breakfast is that it isn’t an official government event but rather a private one put together by the somewhat secretive Fellowship Foundation, a Christian evangelical group headed by Douglas Coe, named one of TIME Magazine’s 25 Most Influential People:
Coe, 76, has been called the
“stealth Billy Graham.” He specializes in the spiritual struggles of
the powerful. … Coe and his
associates sometimes travel (on their own dime) with congressional
members abroad and–according to investigations by the Los Angeles
Times and Harper’s–have played backstage roles in such diplomatic
coups as the 1976 Camp David accords. Yet Coe also befriends
dictators. “He would still hold out hope that these people could be
redeemed and try to work through them to help the people over whom
they have authority,” says Richard Carver, president of the
Fellowship’s board of directors. Some skeptical Evangelicals
criticize Coe’s indiscriminate alliances and his downplaying of
Jesus’ divinity in favor of his earthly teachings–which allows Coe
to pray with Muslim and Buddhist leaders.
I’ve posted the full transcript of President Obama’s remarks here.