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(RNS) Religious leaders, from the National Association of Evangelicals to Vatican officials, praised Friday’s (Oct. 9) selection of President Obama as the winner of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize.
The Nobel Committee specifically cited Obama for his “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples,” particularly his goal of ridding the world of nuclear weapons.
The Rev. Joel Hunter, an NAE board member and megachurch pastor from suburban Orlando, Fla., said Obama’s anti-nuclear activism reflects a renewed push among evangelical leaders for nuclear disarmament.
“President Obama is to be congratulated for setting a course so that the generation that had school drills to hide under our desks in case of nuclear attack should be the source of a permanent recess from fear for our grandchildren,” he said.
The same day as the Nobel announcement, the NAE was gathered outside Washington for a leadership conference, with anti-nuclear activism as part of the official agenda.
Chief Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi said the choice is “greeted with appreciation in the Vatican” and praised Obama’s “demonstrated … promotion of peace in the international arena, and in particular and recently in favor of nuclear disarmament.
“It is hoped that this most important recognition will further encourage such a commitment, which is difficult yet fundamental for the future of humanity, that it may produce the hoped-for results.”
The Rev. Ishmael Noko, general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, commended Obama for efforts to “restore broken relationships, including across faith boundaries.” In remarks Friday in the White House Rose Garden, Obama called for “a new beginning among people of different faiths and races and religions; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect.”
The surprise announcement also angered conservative groups, especially over Obama’s support for abortion rights at home and abroad.
“Mother Teresa called abortion the greatest destroyer of peace,”
Cathy Ruse wrote on the blog of the Family Research Council. “But according to the Nobel committee, forcing taxpayers to fund it gets you a peace prize.”
Others questioned whether Obama deserved the award so early in his presidency. Rabbi Brad Hirschfield, president of the New York-based CLAL: The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, called the choice “ridiculous.”
“His getting this award demeans the process, past recipients, and may indicate that the judges are the worst kinds of panderers who some have previously accused them of being,” Hirschfield said.
By Kevin Eckstrom
Copyright 2009 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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