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Barry, President Obama opened the door with a brief mention of religious freedom in his 55-minute speech to the Arab world. To his credit, he did bring up the importance of religious freedom, saying: “Freedom of religion is central to the ability of peoples to live together. We must always examine the ways in which we protect it.” It’s a good beginning, but President Obama must use this opportunity to take some real action – to engage this issue with those in the Middle East who have a notorious record for persecuting Christians and others who do not embrace Islam.
He did include a couple of lines about ‘religious diversity’ – “Among some Muslims, there is a disturbing tendency to measure one’s own faith by the rejection of somebody else’s. The richness of religious diversity must be upheld – whether it is for Maronites in Lebanon or the Copts in Egypt.”
Barry, this is an issue where President Obama must use his presidential clout – this isn’t just about religious ‘tolerance’ – it’s about real life-and-death issues facing those who want to practice their religious faith. We have just completed detailed reports about the persecution of Christians in Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
The persecution of Christians who make up the ‘minority’ religion in many countries is on the rise. That’s exactly why we sent a letter to the White House outlining specific incidents involving the persecution of Christians in the Middle East. And, that is exactly why we called on President Obama “to resolve to establish policy that would bring safety and security for the Christian minority who desire to practice their faith, but who continue to live in fear for their lives in the Middle East.”
The ‘religious freedom’ reference in the speech was fine. But, if President Obama is truly committed to upholding what he calls “the richness of religious diversity” – he must begin to put words into action. People of all faith – including Christians being persecuted in the Middle East – deserve nothing less.
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