President Obama, along with Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, attended the 62nd National Prayer Breakfast Thursday. Obama called for greater protection of religious freedom around the world at the annual interfaith event.
"We see governments engaging in discrimination and violence against the faithful. We sometimes see religion twisted in attempt to justify hatred, persecution against other people just because of who they are and how they pray or who they love," Obama said at the Washington Hilton Hotel Thursday morning, according to CNN.
Obama called for the protection of religious freedom in countries like China, Egypt, Sudan, and Burma, asserting that "around the world, freedom of religion is under threat." Obama did not mention religious freedom in the United States, which some conservative Christians purport is under threat from ACA contraceptive mandates and anti-discrimination measures for gays.
Obama also said a prayer for Christian missionary Kenneth Bae, who is trapped in a North Korean prison camp, and pastor Saeed Abedini, who is imprisoned in Iran.
The New York Daily News reported that Abedini’s wife has expressed her frustration with the State Department for not pursuing her husband’s release more aggressively.
Obama left no doubt about his spiritual leanings when he said that religious freedom was a “key objective” to U.S. foreign policy and asserted that “religion strengthens America."
The president also expressed his eagerness to meet Pope Francis next month.
"I'm especially looking forward to returning to the Vatican next month to meet His Holiness, Pope Francis, whose message about caring for the least of these I hope all of us heed," Obama said. "Like [the Apostle] Matthew, he has answered the call of Jesus, who said, 'Follow me,' and he inspires us with his words and deeds, his humility and his mercy and his missionary impulses to serve the cause of social justice."